Our latest stop on our trip around the diamond comes at the number five spot: second base. At that position, the Washington Nationals‘ had quite a young superstar emerge partway through the season.
At the beginning of the season, Danny Espinosa was the team’s starting second baseman. In 2012, Espinosa had a solid season in which he finished the season batting .247 with 17 home runs and 56 RBI. In 2013, many expected Espinosa to build on those numbers. Instead, he did quite the opposite.
Most credit his dismal performance to a broken wrist that he didn’t tell anybody about for nearly a month, others credit his poor play to mental issues. Either way, there’s no denying his struggles with the bat in his hands. Before being sent down to the minors in June, Espinosa hit .158 with with three home runs and 12 RBI. He finished with an on-base percentage of just .198.
When Espinosa sat out for a brief period at the beginning of the season, Anthony Rendon stepped in a performed well enough to earn a call back later in the season. When he returned at the beginning of June and went on a nine-game hitting streak while Espinosa was on the disabled list, it was clear that the new second baseman of the Washington Nationals had arrived.
Rendon finished off the season batting .265 with seven home runs, 35 RBI and an on-base percentage of .329. Defensively, he wasn’t perfect, but he wasn’t bad, either. As the season wore on and he got more experience at second base in the major leagues, he grew into the position and looked more confident. By season’s end, he was a household name.
Unless the Nationals decide to go after Robinson Cano, which some speculate could happen, you can expect to see Rendon at second again in 2014. However, if the Nationals let go of Adam LaRoche via a trade, move Ryan Zimmerman over to first and put Rendon at third, then you can expect the Nationals to go after a high priced free agent like Cano. This is purely speculation at this point, but don’t be too surprised if something similar to that situation pans out.
Overall, second base went from a huge weakness of the Nationals to major strength. Anthony Rendon stepped in, got off to rocky start, but really played well down the stretch. Barring any sort of switching around, expect Rendon to have another solid season at second base in 2014.