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Double Play Depth: A Bright Spot in Kansas City

Escobar has been such a great hitter that there are no stock photos of him actually hitting.  This will change.
Escobar has been such a great hitter that there are no stock photos of him actually hitting. This will change.

We've now been doing this whole Double Play Depth thing for about six weeks now, so I'm looking for a little feedback from all of you. What things in the column do you find helpful? What things would you like to see added? Do you think it's helpful overall? All feedback (negative or positive) is absolutely welcome, so leave any comments either in the comments of the article or find me on Twitter at @tfw_bret.

The Spotlight

It's always nice to see something you believe to be a statistical inefficiency and watch it begin to play out as you had envisioned in your head. Before the season started, I posted this in my endgame sleepers column from the end of March about Kansas City SS Alcides Escobar:

Escobar should be able to steal 25-30 bases and could surprise in batting average, potentially hitting .280 or higher. He was a career .293 hitter in the minors and he’s gotten pretty unlucky the past two years. His BABIP of .285 may not immediately scream regression, but his xBABIP was .333 last season. There’s room for some serious upward mobility here and he’s being drafted in the nether regions of the position.

What's transpired over the first three weeks of the season is that all of Escobar's underlying stats which made him a candidate for a jump in batting average have stayed pretty constant. Heading into Monday's games, Escobar had an average of .286, a strikeout rate of 13.3% and a ground ball rate 53.3% versus rates of .254, 12.2% and 53.2% in 2011, respectively. The difference? Escobar's BABIP is .319 this year, which is much closer to his xBABIP from last season of .333. This is legit, folks -- Escobar can be a .275-.280 hitter with 30 SB, which could make him nearly a top-10 SS (depending on how his counting stats turn out). Let's take this one to the bandwagon.

More after the jump..

Other DPD Notes

* Don't look now, but Emilio Bonifacio is getting on base at a .403 clip -- and it may not be as much of a fluke as it seems. Since 2009, Bonifacio has increased his walk rate every year: 6.7%, 8.5%, 9.2%, and now 13.2% so far in 2012. His batting average may not stay around .300 (.275 is probably more realistic), but a speedster at the top of an Ozzie Guillen lineup that gets on base at a .375 clip? He could steal 60-70 bases.

* The most impressive thing about Ian Kinsler's 2012 season so far is not being tied for the middle infield lead in HR with 4 or being 2nd in baseball in runs scored with 16 -- it's his continually improving plate discipline. It was impressive enough last year, when he finally had his first season with more walks than strikeouts, but this season he's taking it to a new level. In 78 plate apperances, Kinsler has 10 walks and 4 strikeouts. Yea, that's wow worthy.

* On that same topic, here's the remaining list of middle infielders who have more walks than strikeouts currently: Robinson Cano, Mark Ellis, Daniel Murphy, Marco Scutaro. Scutaro's not a surprise as he's done this two of the past three years, but he's also been terrible. Cano's a stud either way. Ellis and Murphy, however, could have a little extra value if this trend continues.

Short-Term Planning

These are the five best and five worst performers from the past week (Monday to Sunday) in standard 5x5 categories.

Who's Hot:

1) Derek Jeter (.407, 2 HR, 7 R, 6 RBI, 0 SB in 27 AB)

2) Alcides Escobar (.318, 1 HR, 4 R, 3 RBI, 3 SB in 22 AB)

3) Hanley Ramirez (.222, 2 HR, 5 R, 5 RBI, 1 SB in 18 AB)

4) Rafael Furcal (.500, 0 HR, 4 R, 4 RBI, 1 SB in 24 AB)

5) Emilio Bonifacio (.278, 0 HR, 3 R, 1 RBI, 4 SB in 18 AB)

Who's Not (min 10 AB):

1) Clint Barmes (.053, 0 HR, 1 R, 0 RBI, 0 SB in 19 AB)

2) Brandon Crawford (.056, 0 HR, 0 R, 1 RBI, 0 SB in 18 AB)

3) Jeff Keppinger (.077, 0 HR, 0 R, 0 RBI, 0 SB in 13 AB)

4) Ryan Roberts (.100, 0 HR, 0 R, 1 RBI, 0 SB in 20 AB)

5) Kelly Johnson (.105, 0 HR, 2 R, 0 RBI, 0 SB in 19 AB)

The Bandwagon

Here is where I will keep the unabridged list of bandwagons I am currently on here in the world of middle infielders. The categories show how strongly I feel about them - ranging from "driving!" (a bandwagon I feel super strong about) to "about to jump!" (a bandwagon I'm pretty sure is on fire and requires my swift departure). Nothing will get erased from this list over the course of the season, so the "Evacuated" section will be there to remind us all of the crazy, crazy bandwagons I've supported over the course of the year. All new bandwagons for the current week are starred.

The Good:

Hanley Ramirez will finish 2012 as a top-10 overall player (driving!)

Derek Jeter will be more valuable in 2012 than Asdrubal Cabrera (firmly on)

*Alcides Escobar will hit .280 or higher in 2012 (firmly on)*

The Bad:

J.J. Hardy will hit fewer than 20 HR (driving!)

Ryan Roberts will finish outside the top 15 2B in 2012 (firmly on)

The Ugly (Evacuated):

None yet. Whew.

Look Out Below!

Notes from future DPD occupants currently residing in the minor leagues:

* Until he slows down, this section is probably going to continue to lead off with Billy Hamilton (it seems appropriate). Since we last spoke a week ago, Hamilton is 9-for-25 with 8 walks, 6 strikeouts and 6 steals to bring his minor league leading total to 16. But the most interesting part of his 2012 season so far has been the 10 extra-base hits in 64 AB. To put that in perspective, last year he only had 30 in 550 AB last year.

* Jean Segura started off a little slow upon starting AA, but the Angels SS prospect has now hit safely in his last eight games, including 4 steals and a HR Monday night against Rockies pitching prospect Edwar Cabrera. He's healthy and showing off the same upside scouts saw before his hamstring injury last season -- though with Kendrick and Aybar locked up to long-term deals in Anaheim, will he end up being trade bait?

* If you're not too familiar with Alex Castellanos, don't feel left out. But hitting .371 with 4 HR, 7 SB with a 17-12 K/BB ratio in 70 at bats will put you on some radars. The prospect the Dodgers received in the Rafael Furcal deal last season, Castellanos is a 2B prospect who just keeps getting more and more helium -- and scouts are starting to come around on his ability to stay at the position. Keep an eye on this one, as only Mark Ellis stands between him and playing time in LA.

What to Watch For

On the injury front, Chase Utley was taking batting practice on Monday in the Phillies' complex in Arizona. How substantial this news is has yet to be determined, but it's a start. All along, I've said that June 1 is the first realistic date we may see Utley back in the majors, and that fits in very well with where he was drafted, as 90 games of Utley is right about what his owners probably paid for him (unless you were unfortunate enough to have your draft before the news came out. The hope is that news like this will continue to trickle out of Phillies camp until we actually have a date for which Utley will go on a rehab assignment -- but don't get your hopes up, I'd still be shocked if was in the next few weeks.

Follow me on Twitter at @tfw_bret