Why The Rays Should Target Kelvim Escobar

It's been beaten into our heads a million times already, but with limited payroll space, the Rays options for potential bullpen replacements are just as limited. Over the past few weeks we've covered Joaquin Benoit and Kiko Calero as attractive free agents that fit the Rays profile. We've also identified that profile as some one who is effective, gets strikeouts, has a good contact rate, can get both left handers and right handers out, and most importantly is cheap. Of course asking for all that you are going to get candidates with flaws, but the hope is those flaws won't manifest themselves in 2010. Until we get more candidates after the December non-tender deadline, here are two final candidates that I've identified as being targets as soon as free agency starts next month.

Before we look at the difference in each individual's case, here are some similarities: Brendan Donnelly and Kelvim Escobar are former teammates, playing on the same Los Angeles Angels team from 2004-2006.This also means that both spent time with  Rays manager Joe Maddon during his time with the Angels. The final similarity comes in the form of injury. Both players have battled injuries in the past which is no different from most MLB pitchers as well as the other relievers we've looked at.

We'll finish up with Donnelly in another post, but now more on Escobar...

 

Kelvim Escobar was a well above-average starting pitcher for the Angels from 2004-2007. He finished with an average FIP of 3.4 in those seasons. However, he would miss the entire 2008 Major League season with an injured shoulder, undergoing laburm surgery in July 2008. He started the next season on the DL and made three rehab starts in the minors before making his season debut on 6/6/09 - pitching five innings of two run ball for the Halos. Unfortunately, a "pinch" in his shoulder landed him back on the DL. The Angels thought it was a temporary setback, but Escobar did not throw a major league pitch for the rest of the season.

It's hard to project the numbers on Escobar because he's split his MLB career as a reliever and a starter. He has made 411 appearances with 209 of them in relief and 202 coming as a starter. He worked as a closer for the Blue Jays in 2002 and then posted 200 innings as a starter for Los Angeles in 2004. Regardless of his role, Escobar has been effective. Here are some of his career numbers...

 

Games

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

FIP

Starter

202

7.4

2.11

0.77

3.83

Reliever

209

9.98

2.27

1.05

3.98

 

 

BA

OBP

SLG

BABIP

Starter

0.256

0.329

0.389

0.304

Reliever

0.243

0.329

0.385

0.307

 

 

BA

OBP

SLG

vs. RHB

0.255

0.321

0.378

vs. LHB

0.253

0.336

0.399

As you can see, he's just a good pitcher. As a starter he allows less home runs and slightly less walks, but as a reliever he strikes out more than two and a half more batters per nine. Looking at the second set of statistics, it's amazing to me how similar they are given the two completely different roles. Batters get on-base exactly the same whether he's a starter or a reliever and the slugging is almost identical. The BABIP is almost also similar meaning there isn't much "luck" involved. Of course there's over 1,000 innings difference between the two, but still pretty amazing. Equally impressive is his ability get out hitters regardless of their handedness.

Stuff wise, he throws up to six pitches as a starter: fastball, slider, cutter, curveball, change-up, split finger. However, as a reliever for the Jays in 2002 and 2003, he threw mostly fastballs, curveballs and split fingers with a few change-ups mixed in. It's hard to say what he will throw these days and how hard since he hasn't really thrown in over two seasons. The injury concerns are huge. And Escobar's injury history also includes past elbow problems, but given his past success in either the starter or relievers role and his history with Joe Maddon, he's definitely worth a flier.

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