By Jason Shetler
During his time as an amateur, Luis Escobar made the conversion from infielder to pitcher. His profile on the mound was intriguing enough for the Pirates to sign him out of Colombia for $150,000 in 2013.
Escobar began his pro career in 2014 with the Pirates Dominican Summer League club. In 14 starts that year, he had a 4.75 ERA. Escobar performed much better last season for the Gulf Coast League Pirates where he posted an ERA of 3.54 along with a 1.03 WHIP in 11 starts. This year marks his third straight season pitching short season ball, this time with the West Virginia Black Bears. He’s appeared in 13 games, ten of which are starts, posting a 2.51 ERA.
The upside is certainly there for Escobar to be a legitimate impact arm. His fastball sits in the mid-90’s and has topped out at 97 mph. Just as the case with any hard-throwing pitcher, he’ll need to do a better job of commanding the fastball moving forward. Perhaps the most encouraging thing about Escobar in 2016 has been the improvement of his changeup. Left-handed batters are hitting just .198 this season against Escobar, which would indicate the effectiveness of the changeup.
MLB Pipeline currently has Escobar ranked the 18th best Pirates prospect in the system. He’ll be 21 for most of next year in his first full season with the West Virginia Power, a good age for the Low A level. If Escobar can display more consistent command of his hard fastball to go along with the improved changeup, there’s no doubt he’ll be one of the top pitching arms in the Pirates system over the next couple of years.