SURPRISE, Ariz. —Ned Yost remembers shortstop Alcides Escobar from their days together in Milwaukee as a tall, skinny kid from A-ball who occasionally got a summons from minor-league camp to serve as an extra body for Cactus League games.
That was in 2007 and 2008 when Yost was managing the Brewers, and Escobar was a prospect on the rise.
"The first time I saw the kid," Yost said, "I thought, 'This kid has a chance to be an All-Star someday.' And nothing that he ever did diminished that thought.
"I always played him every time he came over because he was so much fun to watch. His range was so spectacular. I always got him in there."
Yost's plans haven't changed since Escobar, now 24, came to the Royals in the off-season trade that sent Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to Milwaukee.
Escobar still figures to play every day.
"He's a pretty big upgrade for us," Yost said. "Yuni did a great job for us last year. He really did. He did a nice job for us offensively. He was very solid defensively, but this kid is more rangy.
"Yuni would make big plays when you needed him to make big plays. But this kid is going to have more range. He's going to get to more balls. Yuni had a good arm; this kid has a cannon for an arm."
Escobar flashed that range — and arm — last season as a rookie. Generally, though, he failed to meet the high expectations created by his selection as the Brewers' top prospect over the two previous seasons.
His zone rating ranked eighth among 21 shortstops who played at least two-thirds of their team's games, and only four of those players had more than Escobar's 20 errors.
That's the good news.
Escobar batted just .235 while compiling a .288 on-base percentage — and those numbers ranked 145th and 144th among all players who had the 502 plate appearances necessary to qualify for the batting title.
"It was a hard year last year," he said. "There was a lot of down times, and it was a long year. That's not easy for me, but that's good experience. But now... new year, new team, new start, new everything."
Escobar signed with the Brewers as a 16-year-old in 2003 and spent seven years climbing through their system. Even so, he didn't find it difficult to relocate.
"That's baseball, man," he said. "I'm happy to move forward with another opportunity. It happens. One year, one team. The next year, another team. It's part of the game.
"And that's fine. I'll play anywhere with any team. Whatever. I don't care."
The Royals view Escobar — slim but no longer skinny at 6-feet-1 and 184 pounds — as a long-term answer at shortstop. They also believe he can recapture the defensive form that saw him rated as Milwaukee's best defensive infield prospect in five of his first six pro seasons.
"He will still make his errors," Yost said. "But the thing about Escobar making errors is they are errors on balls that other guys wouldn't get to. They'd be base-hits. He has that type of range."