Signs of approaching fall: position players being converted into pitchers

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I always get a little bummed when August comes to a close and the minor league seasons end. It snakes up on me and reminds me that, in a couple of days, there will be a couple thousand professional baseball players not playing baseball until next spring.

And there are always a couple of signifying end-of-season stories that happen too.  The decision for someone to finally have that surgery they’ve been putting off is one. Another: some random prospect being converted into a pitcher, or vice-versa:

The Orioles placed Delmarva shortstop Mychal Givens on the inactive list Wednesday for an unspecified reason. Givens, who has also been dealing with some elbow soreness, could be back before the Shorebirds’ season ends Sept. 3 in West Virginia.

But it’s possible the second-round pick in the 2009 draft has played his last game as an infielder in the Orioles’ organization.Don’t be surprised if he ends up as a pitcher next year. That’s the plan for now.

I know nothing about this guy I didn’t read in the article (short version: he’s a shorstop who can’t hit or field but who threw 96 m.p.h. in high school).  But I always get some twinge of … something when I read this kind of thing.  The stuff about the season ending like I said. Also some weird feelings I always get when I hear about people making big life changes. A combination of excitement, trepidation and some sadness over plans going awry.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.