San Francisco Giants pitching prospect Edwin Escobar was recently named to the International Team Roster of the 2014 MLB All-Star Futures Game, representing Venezuela. Escobar is not having the best season at Triple-A Fresno and someone asked me if he was really worthy of being selected to the team.
It is true that Escobar is not having an outstanding year for Fresno. Through 17 starts he is 3-7 with a 5.00 ERA, giving up 109 hits in 95 innings. His K/BB ratio is significantly more decent than the ERA at 88/29. He's given up 12 homers and that helps elevate his FIP to 4.50, which is hardly good but not as bad as 5.00.
Looking more closely, if you look at his game-by-game line you'll see that while he's been hit hard a few times, he's also had several very good starts. His control has been sharp lately with a 24/3 K/BB ratio in his last four outings, covering 25 innings, although he's still given up 14 runs in that stretch.
Those numbers don't scream "future star" but it is not just about the numbers of course. Scouting reports from league observers are similar (but not identical) to last year. He's working with a four-seam fastball at 89-94 MPH, averaging 92, and a quality changeup in the low-80s. Those things haven't changed; that's the same as last year.
The big difference seems to be his breaking ball. He reportedly worked with a slider last year, but this season the breaking ball is more of a slower curve and that doesn't seem to be working as well in Triple-A. There is also the impression that his control is better than his command. He doesn't walk the universe, but there's talk that he gets nibbly and has problems putting guys away. This seems particularly true against right-handed hitters, who are raking him at a .329 clip with 12 homers. Lefties are having much more trouble at .197 with zero homers. He may wind up as a reliever if he can't solve right-handers, but it is too soon to conclude that he can't do that.
At age 22, Escobar is a full five years younger than the average player in the PCL. Given his youth and his past track record (2.96 ERA/3.31 FIP, 122/32 K/BB in 131 innings in 2012; 2.80 ERA/2.60 FIP with 146/30 K/BB in 129 innings in 2013), I think he's still a solid prospect. He needs to make some adjustments, but it is better to deal with failure now and make those adjustments than to make them on the fly in the majors.