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A Look At Danny Espinosa

We ranked the Nationals' Danny Espinosa 13th among second basemen recently, yet he's not being drafted inside the first 40 rounds.  Let's dive into the numbers on this potential sleeper.

Espinosa, a third-round pick in 2008, hit .268/.337/.464 in 542 plate appearances across Double and Triple-A in 2010 despite missing time with a hamstring injury.  He mashed 22 home runs and stole 25 bags, though he was caught 11 times.  He switched from shortstop to second base in August and got the call in September.  He played second base for the Nationals regularly that month, hitting .214/.277/.447 with six home runs and a couple of times caught stealing in 112 plate appearances. Espinosa had minor hand surgery in November but is expected to be fine for Spring Training.

Espinosa is penciled in as the Nationals' Opening Day second baseman for 2011, though Jerry Hairston Jr., Albert Gonzalez, and Alex Cora might be hanging around to step in if he falters.  Espinosa will probably bat toward the bottom of the order at least initially.

Baseball America says Espinosa projects as a "solid regular," a player with excellent bat speed and average foot speed.  They say he runs the bases well, though his caught stealing numbers don't back that up.  For him to be mixed league worthy in 2011, he needs to continue attempting steals at the pace he did in the minors (over 15% of the time once he reached first base).

Projection systems spit out something like .240-20-70-80-20 if he is to get 550 ABs.  In an MLB.com chat, Espinosa named his personal goals: 

I want to go out there and play every day. Personally, I want to play every single day and hit for a solid average. That's my biggest thing. I want to hit for a solid average and have a high on-base percentage.      

Obviously a strikeout-prone player can not simply will himself to a good batting average.  But the power/speed combo makes Espinosa a top 15 second baseman even with a .240 average.  If you can take the hit in that category, he's a good late-round pick as for your MI slot.  Espinosa is not alone as a low-AVG power/speed second baseman; the Rays' Sean Rodriguez provides a similar package but with more big league experience.

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