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January 27, 2014

Rumor Roundup

The Best Shapers Are Back

by Daniel Rathman


Yep, it’s that time of year again: Danny Espinosa is in the best shape of his life
Nothing says spring training is near like tweets and articles about players who claim to be fitter than ever. Enter Danny Espinosa—and MLB.com’s Andrew Simon, the reporter with whom he spoke over the weekend. According to the Nationals infielder, the club has not closed the door on his days as an everyday contributor, and Espinosa hopes to prove worthy of taking back the keystone in Viera, Florida, over the next two months.

It’s tough to overstate how disastrous the 2013 campaign was for Espinosa, who chipped in 3.6 WARP in 2011 and 2.1 WARP in 2012 before falling off a cliff. The 26-year-old was never a particularly disciplined hitter—he struck out 166 and 189 times in his first two big-league seasons—but the Nationals derived plenty of value from his power-and-speed tandem, as well as his above-average defense at second base. Last year, all of those things fell by the wayside.

Espinosa batted just .158/.193/.272 in 2013, logging only 12 extra-base hits in 167 plate appearances after slugging 56 of them in 658 trips to the box the previous year. His walk rate plunged from 7.0 percent to 2.4 percent. He stole only one base after going 20-for-26 in that department in 2012. And while he was still an asset in the field, his FRAA rating fell from 5.8 in 2012 to 0.6 in 2013.

To be fair, Espinosa was hurt—and it appears that he was actually hurt worse than the team’s doctors led him to believe. He played through the entire season with a strained rotator cuff in his left shoulder, and he was told following an April plunking that his wrist injury was a bone bruise, not a fracture. Unfortunately, Espinosa can’t fall back on either of those ailments if he hopes to snatch the second-base job back from Anthony Rendon, who outhit him by a mile (.265/.329/.396).

If Espinosa shows manager Matt Williams that he is worthy of extended playing time, the first-year skipper will need to juggle four infielders at three spots. Ian Desmond is entrenched at shortstop, so Espinosa would need to share time with Adam LaRoche, Rendon, and Ryan Zimmerman. Time will tell if the Nationals need to cross that bridge, but if they do, Williams could opt to bench LaRoche against left-handed pitchers, who held him to a .214 True Average in 2013.

First-year Brave Ryan Doumit is not done catching
When the Braves acquired Ryan Doumit from the Twins last month, in exchange for pitching prospect Sean Gilmartin, some wondered about the role that general manager Frank Wren had in mind for him.

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Related Content:  Ryan Doumit,  Danny Espinosa

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<< Previous Article
The Week in Quotes: Ja... (01/27)
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Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Bringin... (01/21)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Extensi... (01/28)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Minor League Update: I... (01/27)

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