Escalera’s youth: a trait of a champion

 “My secret weapon is my ability to successfully compete with my older peers without feeling any pressure”

San Juan, PR- Kansas City Royal’s baseball organization, announced last week the selection of Alfredo Escalera as the KC’s 8th pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. With this selection, the Royals opted for the youngest player to ever be drafted since the insertion of the MLB Amateur Draft in 1965.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Escalera moved to Florida to join the IMG Academies Baseball program in 2008. At IMG, Escalera was able to excel in both the athletic and academic aspects. Escalera, a National Honor Society student got committed to attend (D1) Stetson University and was presented with several athletic awards throughout his high school years. “I am fortunate to be given every opportunity possible to show my abilities, not only at IMG where I joined the Varsity team when I was 16, but also in the Puerto Rico 18U Palomino Summer League in which I played at 15”.

Escalera’s young age seems more relevant after most MLB organizations became more aware about the benefits of drafting young talent. Last year, Dr. Rany Jazayerli presented a research study in which he concluded that the very young players return more value than expected by their draft slots. In Jazayerli’s study, he looked at the statistics and broke high school draftees up into 5 distinctive groups based on their age on draft day. Dr. Jazayerli’s defined a “very young” player as those who are younger than 17 years and 296 days on draft day. Escalera was only 17 years and 114 days old on draft day. Despite the fact that the study was limited to the top 100 draft picks, its conclusion seems to apply across the board. “I truly believe that by drafting me, the Royals are mixing their top-ranked minor league system with my athletic ability and youth, expecting that this combination will produce an extraordinary positive results” affirmed Escalera.

The main concern when drafting a young talent is how these athletes will handle the physical and mental challenges typical of professional baseball. This does not seem to concern Escalera, a 6’2” and 175 pound who is a seemingly mentally mature individual. It is evident that when it comes to physical development, Escalera has a high ceiling to get stronger.  He has a loose angular body build outstandingly fit but without a mature muscular depth. This has not affected Alfredo’s competitive abilities. At the age of 16, Alfredo achieved the highest score in the Combine 360 among all the high school Florida’s baseball players tested, and was able to be in the top 10% of all the athletes tested including those in basketball, football and tennis.

“I see some of my older peers and I get impressed because they really look big and muscular, but that has motivated me to work harder during the summer and the off season” affirmed the young player. It seems that his effort paid off, he has a low tension swing, backed by a high level bat speed which causes the ball to jump hard giving him power potential. His offensive power, speed and arm strength competes very well with other top players of the remarkable 2012 class.

On the field, his physical ability has consistently matched and commonly surpassed his older peers as evident by his accomplishment at the IMG Academy where the level of training and competition was extremely demanding.

Alfredo realized that in order to achieve his goal as a professional minor league player, it is required the development of his already remarkable athletic skills as well as a strong mental conditioning. “Baseball is an unforgiving sport which challenge ones mental toughness in each at bat and with every play…I truly believe that I am ready to face any challenge,” stated a confident Escalera. In a letter dated last year, his Varsity Coach Jason Elias described Alfredo’s aptitude by stating, “he understands the ups and downs of the game and handles adversity well. He understands what it takes to be successful and has the mental component of the game in his grasp”.

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