Escobar Has Power Surge In AFL





CHICAGO—Diminutive shortstop Eduardo Escobar is no longer a blip on the fringes of the White Sox's radar. He has used an Arizona Fall League assignment to demonstrate his improvement as a hitter, showing both on-base skills and surprising power for his size.

Escobar, 21, has turned in three strong seasons at shortstop since arriving in the U.S. 2008. (He signed in '06.) His teams have won, in part on strong play up the middle, and it was his consistency and polish in the field that first opened eyes.

But the 5-foot-10, 150-pound switch-hitter has made great strides. His average has increased on a regular basis as he has climbed the ladder, including an impressive showing after he was promoted from high Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham midway through 2010.

Escobar finished the season batting .277/.316/.393 between his two stops. In the AFL, he hit .300/.353/.536 with four home runs and five triples in 28 games. He hit just six home runs during the regular season, so he was shocked to be among the home run leaders in the AFL.

"I don't know about the home runs," Escobar told the Chicago Tribune. "I work on my hitting every day."

A solid but not flashy fielder, Escobar has average arm strength but a quick release. Escobar wears the No. 13, which has been worn by Venezuelan shortstops Ozzie Guillen and Omar Vizquel. He met Vizquel last spring when Vizquel joined the White Sox as a utility infielder, and looks forward to spending more time with him in 2011.

Escobar enters 2011 as middle-infield depth for the White Sox behind Alexei Ramirez, who will be a financial bargain next season but seems likely to become an expensive proposition for 2012 and '13, his last two seasons under White Sox control. His emergence provides general manager Ken Williams with an internal alternative. The question is whether he can continue making the kind of strides he did in 2010.

CHI-LITES

• Righthander Jhonny Nunez got off to a fast start pitching relief for Licey in the Dominican Republic. He had 12 strikeouts and only one walk in his first nine innings. He pitched well as a Double-A starter at the end of 2010 and could go into the rotation for Triple-A Charlotte to open 2011.

• Following a disappointing end to 2010, righthander Kyle Bellamy is playing winter ball in Puerto Rico, working on his changeup and getting more comfortable against lefties.