Although Danny Espinosa has had his struggles at the dish from time to time, he has done a good job so far at filling in at second base while Ryan Zimmerman is on the DL. Espinosa is currently hitting .269/.317/.473 with 5 HR, which would put him on pace for about 20 if he played the whole season. While it may not look like it at times (cough cough, 2013), I believe there is still some decent potential for Espinosa to be a respectable MLB second baseman.
I think that Espinosa will land somewhere between Dan Uggla of the glory days and the recent Dan Uggla, or to keep the Braves comparisons going, B.J Upton. Obviously, today both of these players aren’t what they used to be but they share the same feast or famine style of hitting as Espinosa.
In his best season so far (2011) Espinosa hit .236 with 21 HR, 66 RBI, 29 2B, and 17 steals while playing in 158 games. The next season he hit 37 doubles 17 HR, and had 20 steals. In these two seasons he has definitely shown the capability to be at least a 20-20 player.
So far, the one thing that Espinosa struggles to do is just put the ball in play. If he could put the ball in play on a consistent basis he would definitely become a much better player, since he hits the ball hard on a fairly regular basis when he does put the ball in play. This is demonstrated by the prime years of fellow second basemen Dan Uggla and Chase Utley.
|Uggla-06, 08, 10||16%, 16%, 22%||69%, 53%, 61%||8.8%, 11.3%, 9.5%|
|Utley-06, 07, 08||20%, 22%, 22%||67%, 69%, 68%||10.3%, 12.2%, 11.0%|
|Espinosa-11, 14||16%, 20%||61%, 59%||8.4%, 9.9%|
As you can see, aside from Dan Uggla’s outlier (53%), putting the ball in play would definitely make Espinosa a better all around hitter, since he has already demonstrated the ability to hit the ball hard. I am not trying to say that Espinosa will become Chase Utley if he puts the ball in play 8% more often but it would certainly help.
It might not be completely apparent yet, but once Adam Laroche’s contract expires there will definitely be an open spot at second base with Ryan Zimmermann moving across the diamond to first (and Rendon going to third). Once that happens, Espinosa could find himself in the starting lineup as an everyday player again, lets hope he keeps on improving and hopefully the Nats will not have to go after a free agent in the offseason.