Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa has made dazzling plays all year in the field, robbing hitters of would-be base hits. Now, it’s his turn to feel the burn of getting something taken away. The rookie from Long Beach State is not one of the three finalists for the National League Gold Glove at second, that honor going to the Reds’ Brandon Phillips, Omar Infante of the Marlins, and Pittsburgh’s hometown hero, Neil Walker. The winners at each position will be announced tonight.
There’s no doubt that the three nominees are deserving of the award, but one has to wonder what Espy did wrong? In terms of style points, only Phillips has Espinosa beat. Washington had the best record out of the four teams mentioned here as well. The answer is pretty easy; the 24-year old wasn’t good enough offensively. That’s what’s wrong with the Gold Glove award, it doesn’t usually go to the best fielder, but an average defender with gaudy offensive statistics. His .236 batting average isn’t something to write home about, nor was his long slump during the season’s second half. The name recognition also isn’t there, as the other three guys are better known throughout baseball’s inner circles.
A play that stands out to me during this year was a game in May in Miami against the Florida Marlins. Hanley Ramirez hit a pop fly down the right-field line and Espinosa covered a lot of ground in such short time, making a spectacular catch on a ball that may have dropped for a hit. The only weakness I see is that he tends to misjudge how much time he has to make a play or throw. Once Espy learns opposing players and their tactics better, we’ll see those 14 errors he committed in 2011 turn into a single-digit number, possibly as soon as next year. Hall of Fame writer Peter Gammons picked this kid for Rookie of the Year, an award he was a frontrunner in for the first part of the year. Beat writer Bill Ladson also predicts multiple Gold Glove wins for him, so he has many believers around the game.
Despite not getting anything to show for a solid season in the field, you could make the argument that Espinosa was the most valuable player for the Nats this year, rebounding to finish a game under .500 for the year, their best mark since 2005. He started 155 games at second and quickly became a fan favorite with the ability to hit for power and hold his own in the field. It’ll be interesting to see how he grows into an everyday player for a second year. Where will he hit in the order and can he become more consistent at the plate, especially from the left side? He shouldn’t let this disappointment bring him down because he far exceeded expectations this year and brings a spark of excitement to Washington baseball.