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Roster review: Danny Espinosa

Oct 20, 2015, 6:00 AM EST

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Age on Opening Day 2016: 28

How acquired: 3rd round pick, 2008 draft

MLB service time: 4 years, 113 days

2015 salary+bonuses: $1.8 million

Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2016, free agent in 2018

2015 stats: 118 G, 412 PA, 59 R, 88 H, 21 2B, 1 3B, 13 HR, 37 RBI, 5 SB, 33 BB, 106 SO, .240 BA, .311 OBP .409 SLG, .719 OPS, 3 E, 10.3 UZR (at 2B), -0.9 UZR (at 3B), 1.8 WAR

Quotable: “He’s played all over the diamond, done everything we’ve asked him to do, and then some. It says something about his character.” — Matt Williams on Danny Espinosa, July 11

2015 analysis: Very little was expected of Danny Espinosa entering the season, and for good reason. After two straight dismal years at the plate, he faced a career crossroads, forced into trying to give up switch-hitting and only bat from the right side during spring training.

Espinosa, though, never felt comfortable doing that, so in his first at-bat of the season against a right-hander, he dug in from the left side of the plate … and proceeded to double. A few days later, he homered as a left-handed batter, and thus ended the experiment. He wound up a dramatically more productive hitter, lowering his strikeout rate (from 33.5 percent to 25.7 percent), increasing his walk rate (from 5 percent to 8 percent) and his home run rate (from 2.2 percent to 3.2 percent).

Espinosa also proved as valuable as ever in the field, making his career debuts at three new positions: third base, first base and left field. That versatility and better offensive approach made him quite important to the Nationals; they went 54-41 when he was in the starting lineup, 29-38 when he wasn’t.

2016 outlook: So, how does Espinosa figure into the Nationals’ plans now? That remains to be seen. Ian Desmond’s expected departure opens up a spot in the starting infield, but Espinosa isn’t assured of being handed that job (either at second base or shortstop) and could lose out to either top prospect Trea Turner or someone else the club acquires in the offseason.

Though he may not like it, Espinosa does have real value coming off the bench. His willingness to learn all those new positions this year makes him a good backup option for several other regulars. And as a switch-hitter with good speed, he can be used in just about any scenario that develops during the course of a game.

For all the progress he made in 2015, though, Espinosa does need to prove he can sustain his offensive success. He faded some in the second half — possibly a negative result of his playing time diminishing quite a bit — and he still had a tendency sometimes to swing out of control from the left side. If he can keep that swing short and avoid chasing pitches out of the zone, he can continue to develop into a highly valuable player for the Nationals, no matter his exact role.

  1. joemktg - Oct 20, 2015 at 7:43 AM

    Injuries, which are a constant, proved his value. And with two years left on his contract, its a great situation for both parties.

  2. Whack-A-Mule - Oct 20, 2015 at 8:16 AM

    Given that one of Rizzo’s highest priorities in the off-season is to acquire a credible bat for the 4-hole to protect Harper, there is no guarantee that such an acquisition would be an outfielder.
    While such a bat would ideally be attached to a center fielder, it might well belong to another infielder
    (For example, Daniel Murphy is the perfect bat; in the field not so much).
    That would have all sorts of interesting implications for Mr. Espinosa.

    • tcostant - Oct 20, 2015 at 9:15 AM

      I’d put the pen higher. I think Rizzo needs to spend $20M in 2016 salary (so not total contracts, just 2016) to fix the pen.

      • jd - Oct 20, 2015 at 9:28 AM

        Just some food for thought:

        NY Mets closer: Familia – minimum salary.
        KC Royals closer: Davis – 4 Mil.
        Toronto closer: Osuna – Minimum salary.
        Cubs closer :Rondon – minimum salary.

        You don’t build a bullpen by just throwing money at it. You have to find the right combination of ex starters, up and coming young arms etc.

      • veejh - Oct 20, 2015 at 9:52 AM

        Next season…..Nats closer: Rivero – minimum salary

      • Doc - Oct 20, 2015 at 10:13 AM

        Watching Osuna in the Jays-KC series I was thinking of Rivero too, veejh.

      • chaz11963 - Oct 20, 2015 at 12:57 PM

        $20m? Why? First off, it doesn’t seem that throwing $$$ around is the best way to fix a bullpen. Secondly, I don’t get the $20m figure- ?

      • tcostant - Oct 20, 2015 at 3:36 PM

        Our pen is a mess, Rivero is a good call has a later inning guy. But we need a lot of guys and one top dollar guy, if that’s a trade for Chapman or a guy like Clipper, so be it. We also need to spend money on the 6th/7th inning. Big deal what other teams have spend, our guys did NOT get it done in 2015, so we go outside to find guys in 2016 as free agents or trades.

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 20, 2015 at 3:42 PM

        Getting Chapman would be a dream!! Not only one of the best Nats wouldn’t have to face him anymore

    • Section 222 - Oct 20, 2015 at 10:46 AM

      I like Murphy, but he hit 13 HRs this year. He’s not a cleanup hitter. Plus, he’s a lefty, and I do think lefties should be split up to make late inning matchups more difficult.

      I’d actually like to see Bryce bat cleanup next year. That would get him to the plate with runners on base more often.

      • jd - Oct 20, 2015 at 10:58 AM

        Amen !!

    • infideljack - Oct 20, 2015 at 11:34 AM

      He already has RZim and Werth for that.

  3. ArVAFan - Oct 20, 2015 at 8:18 AM

    Just don’t do that mustache thing (or dead otter, or whatever that was) again. That was scary having to look at that on the video board all year. Since he shaved it off right after photo day, I wonder if he lost a bet.

    • trfwans - Oct 20, 2015 at 8:56 AM

      More likely he did it all – the growing and the shaving – on purpose, knowing it would live on forever on big screens and baseball cards. Clearly you have never been a 20something guy who spends a big chunk of his time in locker rooms with other 20something guys.

      • ArVAFan - Oct 20, 2015 at 11:06 AM

        You are correct: any time I’ve spent in locker rooms (which is considerable) did not involve 20-year-old guys. Or any other age guys.

  4. philipharmonic - Oct 20, 2015 at 9:25 AM

    I don’t get this stat at all: Nats were 54-41 when he was in the starting lineup, 29-38 when he wasn’t.

    When he was in the starting lineup, it was mostly because someone was hurt, yet the narrative was that injuries hurt the #Nats. Yet, this shows the opposite.

    Or, more likely, it points to the fact that statistics like this are pretty pointless.

    • philipharmonic - Oct 20, 2015 at 10:44 AM

      as an added note to the pointlessness of this type of stat: The Nats had a .503 winning percentage with Harper in the starting lineup and a 0.667 winning percentage with Harper not in the lineup. Does this mean that Harper should have had more days off or that we should have wished for an injury?

      • infideljack - Oct 20, 2015 at 11:45 AM

        Harper only missed 9 games. We were in first place in the NL East until the “regulars” started returning from the DL and screwing up the team chemistry on the field.
        Danny and Harper are the 2 biggest reasons for what success we had.
        That said, the second half Max was a disaster as was the bullpen, especially after Papelbon.

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 20, 2015 at 12:19 PM

        You are forgetting an important person on that list of people your ripping Matt Williams. His decisions of when to pull starting pitchers and put the correct pitchers in from the bull pen was beyond logic. His bad decision making started in the playoffs the previous season when he pulled Zim out that game. Then the downfall began. I’m looking for a full time job. Maybe they should hire me evidently you don’t have to much experience.

  5. Susanfaulkner - Oct 20, 2015 at 10:07 AM

    Off topic but our prayers go out to Daniel Norris the pitcher for the Detroit Tigers who has cancer. The courage he has shown to play the rest of the season knowing his diagnosis. Cancer is an awful disease that doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care how old you are,what you do for a living or what color your skin is. A cure needs to be found!!

    • veejh - Oct 20, 2015 at 10:15 AM

      I read something recently about a protein in malaria and cancer that seemed very promising.

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 20, 2015 at 10:20 AM

        This isn’t the platform for this so I don’t want to go off on a rant. I will say this though I think they have a cure but its a money maker.

    • Doc - Oct 20, 2015 at 10:15 AM

      +5 and more!

  6. chaz11963 - Oct 20, 2015 at 1:02 PM

    Presumably, Rendon will go back to 3B. So, this discussion is tied to the SS position. The Nats have 3 guys for 2 spots. If Danny hits, I don’t see them putting Yuni at SS with his BAD range. So, I would hope Danny hits decent enough, doesn’t have to be great, to be able to play him everyday at SS and put Yuni at 2B. Trea would be the back-up for both.

    • bowdenball - Oct 20, 2015 at 1:18 PM

      This is my preference too. Rendon at 3B, Escobar at 2B, Espi to start the year at SS with Turner at the ready if he reverts to his 2013-14 form.

      • natsguy - Oct 20, 2015 at 2:01 PM

        He never moved forward from 2013-2014. He hit .206 after June. Not exactly tearing the cover off of the ball. I would rather try an unknown commodity than a known liability. He has shown himself to be stubborn about changing his hitting. Why beat a dead horse.

      • bowdenball - Oct 20, 2015 at 2:11 PM

        He had only 117 plate appearances after the all-star break.

        You’re gonna have to explain to me how 117 plate appearances worth of data is enough for you to conclude that “he has shown himself to be stubborn about changing his hitting” but the 295 plate appearances that preceded it (in which he had an OPS of .766) should be completely discarded. Because they sure seem like evidence that he can and did change his hitting.

      • natsguy - Oct 20, 2015 at 3:37 PM

        Let me see. He batted .240 for the season and .206 after June. Not exactly startling numbers. He promised to shorten his swing and bat exclusively RH . But by July was back to his old ways. Sounds kind of stubborn.

      • bowdenball - Oct 20, 2015 at 4:25 PM

        Yeah, you didn’t answer my question at all.

        His 2015 numbers overall were way up (and stop using batting average to measure hitting, it’s not the 80s). The numbers you’re using to claim that he is too stubborn to change are from 117 plate appearances and ignore the 295 previous appearances that did show a significant change from previous seasons. If he was stubborn to change how did he put up those numbers pre-ASB and for the season overall?

  7. Susanfaulkner - Oct 20, 2015 at 1:17 PM

    Infideljack I agree with you on Max the second half he looked tired. Did see spark at the end. Bullpen was oh my! Fister did great in the bullpen don’t know why he didn’t use him more. Didn’t agree with you on the people coming back from the DL messing up chemistry. I think it was getting rust off.

  8. Nats Fan Zee - Oct 20, 2015 at 7:34 PM

    Danny has a good season (for Danny that is). Great glove but his bat is very inconsistent … Even this year after a great 1st half (2014 it was a good April) he reverted. Rinse and repeat.

    Not a starter (bat) …. Sell high or bench. The MI issues on the Nats need to be addressed once and for all. Danny has been given more lives than a cat.

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