Prior to the 2010 season, Alcides Escobar was ranked by Baseball America as the 12th best prospect in baseball. That same year, Starlin Castro was ranked 16th. Also prior to 2010, Elvis Andrus had just completed an impressive rookie season with the Rangers. Andrus was ranked as high as 19th by Baseball America.
Escobar was 23, Castro was 20 and Andrus, after his first professional season, would be 21 years old in 2010. These weren't just the 3 best shortstops in the minor leagues, but 3 of the best prospects in all of baseball. They were all young, though Castro and Andrus much more so than Escobar. They were all good. They all played SS.
Andrus wasn't much of a hitter, but he more than made up for it with great defense and baserunning. Castro wasn't a great fielder, or a baserunner, but he was a very good hitter considering his age. Escobar was good in the minor leagues, but was never able to carry it over to the big leagues.
Going back to 1980 and looking only at SS through the age of 24, only 2 players, Edgar Renteria and Alex Rodriguez, had more PA at SS than Andrus. Castro had the 8th most, right behind the homophobic Ozzie Guillen. Since Escobar was older and didn't have much success offensively (he has still been worth 5.7 fWAR though), he ranks well below the others and isn't that notable here.
These were guys who were thought very highly of by scouts and their organization and others. They were future stars and two of them have shown they can be just that. Castro more than Andrus because Castro has hit, but fielding and baserunning matter too. It was fun to see so many good young SS entering the league.
This year, each of them rank among the league's worst hitters. Elvis Andrus has a 56 wRC+ (4th worst), Starlin Castro's is 59 (8th worst) and Alcides Escobar's is 64 (9th worst). Despite the horrible offense, Andrus has still been worth 0.7 fWAR and 1.0 rWAR. Escobar has been worth 0.8 fWAR and rWAR. Castro is at -1.5 fWAR and -1.6 rWAR.
Castro still projects as the better offensive player, but his defense and baserunning put him behind the other two. Andrus projects to be the most valuable, but he's being paid the most. Escobar's 4-year, $10.5 million contract is the best of the bunch moving forward. The Royals also have 2 option years in that contract.
I still take Castro over Escobar. I always thought it was strange that Escobar had the higher rankings in the minor leagues and Castro, prior to this year, had shown he was clealry the better player. At this point, Escobar and Castro are somewhat equal to one another, but one of them has a team-friendly contract. If you told me two years ago this would be true, I'd have laughed.
Things can change quickly. We've been watching it the past few months. They can and probably will change again, which is why I'd rather have Castro. I just never though it would be very close and it is.
It's not strange that Escobar has failed to find consistency at the MLB level. That's what happens with top prospects. What is strange is that Andrus has become an even worse hitter than before while Castro has been struggling just as much for half a season.