Name: Edwin Escobar
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: April 22, 1992
Acquired: 2008 International Free Agent
The Texas Rangers have built a strong reputation for signing and developing young Latin American [and particularly Venezuelan] pitchers over the last few years.
In the summer of 2008, the Rangers' biggest international free agent arm was 16-year-old left-hander Edwin Escobar, who signed for a $350,000 bonus.
Regarded as an advanced prospect with quality ‘now' stuff, Escobar also comes from good bloodlines. The prospect has two cousins in the Major Leagues––former Angels pitcher Kelvim Escobar and Brewers shortstop Alcides Escobar.
Over the last few seasons, the Rangers haven't been shy about allowing Latin American pitchers to make their professional debuts in the United States. Talented arms like Wilmer Font, Carlos Pimentel and Martin Perez never threw a pitch in the Dominican Summer League.
The Rangers deemed Escobar advanced enough to get his start in the U.S., and he reported to Spring Training in Surprise as a 16-year-old last March. Escobar remained in Arizona and pitched in Extended Spring Training until the rookie-level Arizona League began.
Escobar made 13 appearances [12 starts] for the AZL Rangers, logging a 5.00 earned-run average. Though the final ERA was average, his peripheral stats were strong. In 45 innings, he allowed 53 hits while walking 16 and striking out 48.
The 6-foot-1 hurler often showed flashes of dominance during his starts, but he also gave up the occasional big inning. For example, in a mid-August start attended by Lone Star Dugout, Escobar tossed three impressive scoreless innings before unraveling in the fourth.
In his next outing, against the AZL Mariners in Peoria, Escobar pitched perhaps his best game of the year, giving up just three hits in five shutout frames. He attacked the zone and commanded all three of his pitches well.
Escobar was part of a talented AZL Rangers rotation that included five teenage Latin American prospects, and he should join an equally promising group in Spokane this summer.
Also See: Sizing up the left-handed starter prospects (November 11, 2009)
Rangers Minor League Mailbag (November 5, 2009)
Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Jayce Tingler (April 25, 2009)
Rangers Minor League Notes (March 19, 2009)
Repertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.
Fastball: Escobar already works with a solid fastball that has touched 94 mph in the past, and it did on [rare] occasion in the Arizona League last summer. The left-hander generally worked around 87-88 mph, topping out at 90 in most of his starts. His velocity should tick up more consistently [sitting low-90s] as he develops and matures. Escobar is aggressive with his fastball, particularly for a youngster with advanced offspeed stuff. Not surprisingly, his command is very inconsistent not only from start-to-start, but also from inning-to-inning. It's not much of a concern at this point, though, as he turned just 17-years-old last April.
Other Pitches: The Venezuela native spins a tight mid-70s curveball that shows definite plus potential. The curve was a dominant swing-and-miss pitch in the Arizona League, although it was inconsistent and he often left it over the plate a bit too often. Still, the pitch has plenty of potential. He showed more than just a rudimentary feel for his 75-78 mph changeup. Escobar's change should at least be average and possibly better down the line, as it has good armside fade and he is able to consistently throw it for strikes.
Projection: At 6-foot-1, 185-pounds, Escobar's body lacks a bit of projection because he is already physically mature, particularly for his age. With that said, Escobar's fastball should develop more, as he has flashed the ability to hit the 93-94 mph range, and he has a good feel for pitching. He should eventually become a low-90s pitcher [topping out mid-90s] with two solid breaking balls. The pitcher may not have top-of-the-rotation potential, but he could be either a mid-rotation guy or a solid back-end reliever.
2010 Outlook: Although Escobar finished last season with a 5.00 ERA in the AZL, he handled things well. For the most part, the prospect threw strikes with solid stuff, kept the ball down in the zone, and missed bats. He will almost certainly begin the season at Extended Spring Training before reporting to short-season Spokane. Like fellow Venezuelan lefty Martin Perez in '08, Escobar may not post dominant numbers in the Northwest League, but right now, it is all about his stuff and development. Assuming Escobar plays with the Indians, he will be an 18-year-old playing against largely 21, 22, and 23-year-old collegiate competition.
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