Baseball America released their list of the top 20 prospects in the South Atlantic League on Friday morning. No one from the West Virginia Power made the top 20, but right-handed pitcher Luis Escobar was apparently very close to making the list.
J.J. Cooper held a chat in the afternoon and responded to a question about Escobar and whether he was considered for the list. Here is his answer:
“Escobar didn’t miss by much. The tough thing every year about ranking the Sally League is that the difference between the 15th and 25th best prospect in this league is very minimal and is a subject of great debate. Escobar has a chance for 3 avg or better pitches. He’s a very solid pitching prospect with some projection left.”
Escobar led the South Atlantic League this year with 168 strikeouts and held batters to a .200 average. He had a solid 1.19 WHIP, but he walked 60 batters and hit 13 others, which combined is the highest total of free passes to first base in the league. Along with the inability to avoid big innings, which led to a 3.83 ERA, Escobar didn’t show the consistency you’d like to see from a top 20 prospect.
He was still strongly considered for the top 20 though based on the fact that he has a mid-90s fastball, to go along with an above average curve and a solid changeup, giving him three pitches that he could use to record strikeouts. When you add in that he turned 21 years old during the middle of the season, you see why he was just outside of the top 20 despite the control issues and an ERA above league average.
The Pirates will have to decide this winter if they want to add Escobar to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He has the type of arm that would intrigue clubs, especially since he can ramp it up to 98 MPH in relief. His control issues and lack up experience above Low-A make him a risky selection. That’s especially true considering that he often relies on impatient hitters chasing bad pitches, rather than getting swing and misses in and around the strike zone, although he has the stuff to be that type of pitcher. Even with Rule 5 picks increasing to $100,000 (compared to $50,000 before this past winter), you would have to think a team would still gamble on taking him and giving him a look.
Baseball America will continue with the top 20 lists next week. The New York-Penn League (Morgantown) should be released Tuesday or Wednesday, but I wouldn’t expect anyone from the Pirates on that list. The Appalachian League (Bristol) should be released Thursday or Friday and we could possibly see Braeden Ogle on that list. His scouting reports were strong and it’s only a ten-team league, so the talent pool is smaller than leagues like the South Atlantic League, which has 14 teams.
I’d expect the Gulf Coast League to go up early in the following week, although BA occasionally goes out of order based on whether or not the person who wrote up the league is available for the chat. So it is possible that the GCL appears Friday during this upcoming week.