Clone Wars: Yunel Escobar and Marco Scutaro

While 2009 was a career year for Marco Scutaro we won’t know until next season what he can really be. His season made him and the younger Yunel Escobar two of the top 10 shortstops in fantasy baseball last year. With Escobar being only 27 this season, he will be much more trusted to put up another season like this if not better in 2010. So far they have been drafted at replacement level in 12-team leagues according to MockDraftCentral going, on average, as the 11th and 15th picked shortstops, respectively. Let’s see if one or both might be getting undervalued for next year.

          G   PA   AB    R    HR RBI SB CS BB SO   BA     OBP    SLG    OPS    BB%     K%
Scutaro  144  680  574  100   12  60 14  5 90 75  0.282  0.379  0.409  0.789  13.60%  13.10%
Escobar  141  604  528   89   14  76  5  4 57 62  0.299  0.377  0.436  0.812   9.70%  11.70%

Plate Discipline

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MLB: JUL 03 Braves at Nationals
3 July 2009: Atlanta Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar in action against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in Washington, DC. The Braves defeated the Nationals 9-8 to take the first game of the three-game weekend series. (Icon/SMI)

Scutaro has never topped 600 PA before 2009 (came close in 2008 at 592) and his numbers include a lot of time as a pinch hitter. This is a more difficult approach and his numbers before have shown this. His walk rate has varied but even at his worst it was around 9 percent. Last year though he dropped his swing rate to 34.5 percent as he saw the lowest number of strikes per pitches seen. Even if pitchers attack the zone against him in 2010 you know he can still get on base by taking a walk.

Looking at Escobar, he hasn’t quite shown an ability to have the elite walk rate similar to Scutaro even with a similar number of strikes seen. This isn’t a terrible thing though as his 9.7 percent is one of the best among shortstops. He does make up for this by swinging more than Scutaro and making good contact. This has resulted in a better strikeout rate and the two players posted the best BB/K rates among shortstops.

Power

For the first time in his career Scutaro hit double-digit homers, but his overall power numbers look fairly consistent. His career ISO is .119 and only rose to .127 in 2010. There was a rise in his fly ball rate to 43.6 percent, which could help explain his slight power increase. As a right-handed hitter moving to Fenway, he should continue to post SLG numbers near .400.

If we move on to Escobar, we can see he also has a bit more potential for power. His ISO dropped in 2008, but he has a career rate of .125. Since he is only going to be 27, you can see him adding even a bit more power next year. This again gives Escobar a slight edge as he can out slug Scutaro in 2010.

Speed and Baserunning

Overall, looking at their speed score of 4.2 for Scutaro and 3.8 for Escobar they get around the bases fairly well, but Scutaro found some extra steals last season. He topped double-digit steals last year and was caught five times. That isn’t a great rate, but his move to Boston shouldn’t concern you as they didn’t seem to hold their players back in 2009. The Red Sox as a team stole 53 more bases than the Blue Jays.

This is one place Escobar still has some work to do. His success rate was only 55 percent and very similar to his career rate of 50 percent. It looks like Escobar should be held back on the basepaths, but it’s unlikely the Braves will do that.

Roster and Lineup

Sometimes it’s not always the player you draft, but what team they play on. So far we can see that these two are close, but even batting at the bottom of the Red Sox lineup, Scutaro should see similar chances to Escobar in counting stats. If Escobar sees more time in the No. 2 spot he’ll have the lead in runs and fall in RBIs. On the other hand, in the fifth or sixth spot he would probably get more RBIs. Either way, Scutaro is expected to bat somewhere behind J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell and David Ortiz. It’s highly unlikely he sees only 227 plate appearances with runners on next season the way he did this year.

Conclusion

In the end it’s an edge to Escobar for sure and with youth on his side that makes sense. Still, you shouldn’t be afraid to take Scutaro just a few rounds later and have adequately filled your shortstop position. He has earned his time as a starter in the majors as well as a fantasy starter for your team.

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