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MLB Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays 2012 Expectations Revisited: Yunel Escobar

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Before the start of the 2012 MLB season, I put together a series of performance “forecasts” for the projected starters for the Toronto Blue Jays. Now, with the long season well behind the team, here’s a look back at how the players did compared to my projections – which is another way of saying let’s see how much I messed them up. Today, we’ll look at Yunel Escobar‘s final days in a Jays uniform.

The Blue Jays were well aware of the “problem child” caveat when they traded for Yunel Escobar; after a career-best 4.4 WAR season in 2009, it took less than half a season more before Escobar had worn out his welcome with the Atlanta Braves. 2011 saw the talented shortstop put up a resurgent 4.2 WAR season with the bluebirds; but, by the end of 2012, he’d worn out his welcome in Toronto, too.

Although Escobar’s eye-black incident served as the breaking point of his ’12 season, a paltry .253/.300/.344 triple slash did little to ease the disappointment. The .644 OPS was a career-low for the then 29-year old, who showed significant decline in his ability to draw walks (5.8% BB% compared to 10.3% in ’11).

Looking through his batted ball profile in ’12 yields no significant factors as to why Escobar’s batting average may have suffered a steep from last season, but the .273 BABIP (below career level of .306) suggests that he may have been a victim of bad luck in that regard. His drop in power in ’12 (.091 ISO, compared to .123 in ’11) certainly didn’t help things; but, ultimately, it was the walks that really did Escobar in.

That was something that I definitely did not anticipate in my pre-season prediction, as Escobar had shown a steady BB% that hovered around 10% between ’08 and ’11. I was not particularly bullish on his prospects of improving upon the ’11 season, saying “Yunel isn’t spectacular in any fashion, but solid in most aspects”, and that his ’12 likely “won’t stray far from his norm”. As it turned out, status quo was a little too much to expect:

My preseason forecast605 PA, .285/.365/.405, 10 HR, 5 SB
Escobar in 2012: 608 PA, .253/.300/.344, 9 HR, 5 SB

My consolation prize is being pretty accurate with the numbers outside of the triple-slash, I suppose. If only that walk rate hadn’t plummeted…

Even though his $5 million salary made much of the offensive drop-off that much more palatable for the Blue Jays, it’s easy to see why the team did not hesitate to move him in the off-season in the blockbuster deal with the Miami Marlins, who were just as quick to swap him to the Tampa Bay Rays for 23-year old shortstop prospect Derek Dietrich.

In all, you could probably say it was something of a precipitous fall for the former Blue Jays shortstop, who had once looked to be a key part of the future of the franchise after the team extended him in the summer of ’11. Will playing for a divisional rival give Escobar extra motivation to rebound in ’13?