I admit that I haven’t been Danny Espinosa‘s biggest fan lately, but it’s time recognize that the Washington Nationals second baseman is a totally different player this season. After struggling mightily in 2012 and 2013, he’s proving that he belongs at second base full-time in 2014.
Espinosa’s career has been one filled with many twists and turns. He made his debut in September of 2010 and looked to be a promising option for the Nationals at second for years to come. After showing some improvement between 2011 and 2012, he then took a huge step back in 2013.
After batting just .158 in 44 MLB games, he was optioned to triple-A following a stint on the DL to repair his wrist. In 75 games and 283 at-bats in Syracuse, things didn’t get much better as he bat .216 with 101 strikeouts. Certainly not helping his cause, Anthony Rendon was making a name for himself at the major league level with a breakout season. If it weren’t for Espinosa’s defensive ability, his days on a major league diamond were all but over.
Espinosa entered Spring Training with a vote of confidence from GM Mike Rizzo. New skipper Matt Williams also had faith in the disgruntled second baseman and admitted that there was competition at the position. While Rendon won the job out of Spring Training, they kept Espinosa on the bench due to some improvement in his ability at the plate.
When Ryan Zimmerman went down due to injury early in the season, Rendon was moved to third base and Espinosa then took the field at his old position. While it was reasonable to assume the worst, Espinosa has delivered quite a pleasant surprise. As he gets more and more at bats, we’re beginning to see the second baseman of the future Rizzo always thought he had.
Through 48 at-bats this season, he’s posting a .313/.365/.521 triple-slash. Espinosa has knocked five doubles, one home run and three RBIs. His approach at the plate is much improved and it has allowed him to pick up three walks and to strike out just 12 times. As you can obviously tell, this is not the Espinosa we once knew.
What makes his resurgence even more of a good thing for the Nationals is the fact that it’s clear Zimmerman’s days at third base are numbered. As the lineup currently stands, it’s a taste of the future. Rendon will be the future third baseman in Washington, while Zimmerman will move to first and replace Adam LaRoche.
If Espinosa’s new-found offense is for real, why can’t he retake his rightful place at second base for good? While his past may make you want to be cautious, be optimistic as well. This isn’t the Espinosa we’re used to seeing and hopefully this upward trend continues.