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Escobar wants to improve patience at plate

Royals shortstop walked 15 times last season and had .272 on-base percentage
MLB.com @FlannyMLB

SURPIRSE, Ariz. -- Royals fans may want to sit down before reading this: Shortstop Alcides Escobar is vowing to be more selective at the plate and walk more this season.

Yes, Escobar, one of the most chronic free swingers in baseball over the past seven seasons, is spending this Spring Training devoted to changing his offensive approach.

SURPIRSE, Ariz. -- Royals fans may want to sit down before reading this: Shortstop Alcides Escobar is vowing to be more selective at the plate and walk more this season.

Yes, Escobar, one of the most chronic free swingers in baseball over the past seven seasons, is spending this Spring Training devoted to changing his offensive approach.

"I don't want to lose my aggressiveness if the pitcher throws strikes," Escobar said. "But I want to work in Spring Training on walking more. ... I don't care if they [strike me out] down here, but I will work on being more selective."

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To Royals fans and the club's coaching staff, this sentiment is long overdue.

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Escobar walked a career-low 15 times last season in 629 plate appearances while striking out a career-high 102 times. Only a late-season surge (from Aug. 9 until the end of the season, Escobar hit .324 with a .343 on-base percentage and .840 OPS) lifted his average to .250 and his on-base percentage to .272.

"I decided that after last year, I need to [walk more]," Escobar said, "That's what I want to do here."

Escobar certainly has motivation to change his ways. One of numerous Royals free agents to hit the open market in the offseason, Escobar watched his market virtually dry up and finally signed a one-year deal with the Royals on Jan. 29.

Escobar, 31, doesn't want to hit free agency with minimal options again.

"Yeah, of course," Escobar said. "I can play every day. Everyone knows that. But if I get my on-base percentage over .300, more teams will be looking at me."

Video: Flanagan on the Royals re-signing Escobar

Getting that on-base percentage over .300 would seem like a modest goal for most. But Escobar has done that only twice in seven years with the Royals -- .317 in 2014 and .331 in 2012.

Royals manager Ned Yost remains a big fan of Escobar's. Yost loves Escobar's durability -- Escobar has played in all 162 games in three of the past four seasons and in at least 155 games in six of the past seven -- and his steady defense.

But even Yost yearns for Escobar to get on base more.

"That should be more part of his game, a bigger part of his game," Yost said. "You look at guys like Alex Gordon or Jorge Soler, and at times when they struggle with the bat, they still find ways to get on base. That adds value to what you do. It's hard if you're just whacking away."

Yost, too, believes the limited free-agent market for Escobar has motivated him to change his thinking at the plate.

"Maybe, you would think," Yost said. "It just increases your value if you can take a walk and get on base. It's that simple."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Alcides Escobar