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A rookie in name only

Apr 18, 2011, 3:36 PM EDT

US Presswire photo
Rookie Danny Espinosa leads the Nationals so far with 14 RBI.

Make a circle around the far end of the Nationals' home clubhouse and you'll find a chain of big-league veterans, from Matt Stairs to Adam LaRoche to Rick Ankiel to Jayson Werth to Ryan Zimmerman to Ivan Rodriguez to Alex Cora to Jerry Hairston.

That's a lot of major-league experience around that semi-circle, enough to perhaps intimidate a 24-year-old rookie who only three summers ago was playing college ball.

Spend a few minutes with Danny Espinosa, though, and it's quickly apparent very little intimidates this guy.

"It's real easy as a young guy to come up and not be sure if you belong here," LaRoche said. "Kind of feel your way around. Is this for me? Am I good enough to play up here? I haven't seen any signs of that. When you play with the guy and talk with the guy, you think he's been around three or four years. The fact he's that mature as a ballplayer is impressive."

So is the fact Espinosa currently has twice as many RBI as anyone else on the Nationals' roster.

Yep, with yesterday's six-RBI performance in the Nats' doubleheader sweep of the Brewers, Espinosa now has driven in 14 runs in 15Read more ยป

  1. Manassas Nats Fan - Apr 18, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    Espinosa has been solid in the field too. I am hoping that his soilid play continues while we wait for others to catch on. Any word on how Zimmerman's injury is coming? Need to get all the parts working for the team to strive for a .500 record for the season.

  2. Carl in 309 - Apr 18, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    It certainly was a pleasure to watch Espinosa at yesterday's doubleheader; indeed it was exciting watching pretty much the whole thing–winning is way fun.Changing the subject slightly, I left the doubleheader early for another obligation and so missed the balk/no balk call (see http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=13905969). I didn't see any commentary on the evolving call on this blog, in the Post, or the Milwaukee paper (thanks Mark for sharing the link to their piece on the Brewers defensive shifts–which clearly are no defense against home runs!). I'm sure I'll never fully understand the balk rule, but the replay certainly looked like the Brewer pitcher made his move toward first before he took his foot off the rubber–and then didn't throw the ball. And Riggleman was pretty hot about the overturned call.I have this nagging sense that the quality of umpiring calls (is it just my imagination or has the strike zone been even more inconsistent this year than last?) is slipping. Clearly conviction on calls isn't what it used to be.

  3. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - Apr 18, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    He's making me forget all about Goozie. Thank goodness.

  4. natsfan1a - Apr 18, 2011 at 5:06 PM

    Aww, now, I liked Guze. I'm not saying he had the range, mind you, particularly at the end, but I did like the guy.

  5. Anonymous - Apr 18, 2011 at 5:06 PM

    He is one boot from leading the league in errors. Hopefully that trend will slow as he gets more comfy. The RBIs is a great plus and shows, he's in the right spot for now.

  6. natsfan1a - Apr 18, 2011 at 5:10 PM

    Which is not to say that I don't like the kid, because I do. Yeah. So, I guess maybe that makes me a homer. I pretty much like all of our guys. In my defense, it's part of the job description: root, root, root for the HOME team. ;-)

  7. Doc - Apr 18, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    I guess Rick Eckstein is the expert on this.But I was intrigued by Espi's discussion of RHB vs. LHB. When I played hockey I shot both LH and RH, but was more accurate LH. Similarly, I batted from both sides in BB, but was better at it from the right side. I always assumed that it was the bottom hand that was predominant in driving the batting swing. Espi has reportedly strengthed his right hand after the hamate surgery, which would drive his LH swing. That along with shortening his LH swing may be combining to improve his performance on the left side of the plate.It looks like our favorite 2nd baseman may be heading for an All-Star berth—soooooon! He's as much fun watching on the field, as he is in the batter's box.So much for those scouting prospects' polls that had Espi listed as low as 66th out of 100. Looks like they were also wrong about Ramos being 99th too!!! Goooooooooooooo Nats!!!!

  8. Rob Dibble - Apr 18, 2011 at 5:34 PM

    Re: Balk – Looks to me like he disengaged the rubber with his right foot, before making his move. (You could also say he stepped off first with his right foot.) It was quick, but definitely distinct. If you step off first (opposed to jump-spin move), you can do whatever you want and do not have to throw to a bag.

  9. Steve M. - Apr 18, 2011 at 6:08 PM

    Doc said… So much for those scouting prospects' polls that had Espi listed as low as 66th out of 100. Looks like they were also wrong about Ramos being 99th too!!! April 18, 2011 1:16 PM I am chuckling as if Rizzo had his way like he wanted to do in that Greinke trade for Jordan Zimmermann, Danny Espinosa, and Drew Storen, this article obviously wouldn't exist. Luckily Greinke vetoed that deal. Hard to imagine this team right now without those guys.All World Series winning teams need 3 great starting pitchers and an X factor. Whether that is Cody Ross like last year or David Eckstein for the Cardinals, the Nats will need their X factor(s) just to step up to get above 75 wins this year.Ramos and Espinosa can step up as those X Factors for this team as they have been great. Kudos to Peter Gammons for picking Espinosa as his pre-season Rookie of the Year pick.I think many of us knew how much upside Espi had, it is really Wilson Ramos who is turning heads as most didn't expect what he has done so far.

  10. Mark'd - Apr 18, 2011 at 6:21 PM

    SteveM, ironic on that Rizzo is taking credit on Espinoza and you have to wonder in how many trades he was dangled in.Time always tells how trades work out and in this case how it kind of didn't work out. Rizzo was so hell-bent on getting his #1 that he was willing to trade away 3 integral parts of THIS Nats team.

  11. Anonymous - Apr 18, 2011 at 7:29 PM

    >>>Re: Balk – Looks to me like he disengaged the rubber with his right foot, before making his move. (You could also say he stepped off first with his right foot.) It was quick…<<<That doesn't matter, the balk was already called. An overturned balk call is unheard of.

  12. Scooter - Apr 18, 2011 at 7:30 PM

    Not sure why Rizzo wouldn't take credit for developing Espinosa. I mean, they didn't try to trade the kid because he thought he was BAD. Prospects are good for two things: playing them, or trading them for Zack Greinke. Let's meet back here in five years to re-visit the topic.Oh, and a brief PSA. Since everyone here is way too sophisticated to use last year's batting average to judge a hitter: Espinosa's minor-league splits. I find the formatting tough to read, but it's fun stuff to know. You'll note that he absolutely pounded northpaws in '09, for whatever that's worth.Just a little more information to toss on the pile.

  13. Anonymous - Apr 18, 2011 at 7:31 PM

    …and if it was "quick", how could anyone have seen it with enough certainty to overturn the call?

  14. Dave - Apr 18, 2011 at 8:04 PM

    off topic but thought I would pass this along to fellow nats insiders. New Era is having a 30% off sale + use the coupon code "email25" for an extra 25% off.

  15. JaneB - Apr 18, 2011 at 8:13 PM

    Scooter, I love that you know all these stats and share them!natsfan1a, I'm a homer, too. I drove my husband nuts every time I'd turn and say, "You know, I just love (fill-in-the-blank-Nat)." Some I don't yet love but I will, he's sure. I DO root root root for the home team, and appreciate that so many here do, too. And all who note that Rizzo was all to glad to trade away Espi and other key building blocks of our future: I've been exclaiming about the same thing. Then it hit me: it didn't happen. These guys are OURS. And they are proving themselves to be valuable to US in the long haul. We may trade Marquis and Pudge down the road, but hopefully the FO sees the value in leaving these guys where they are: as Nationals.

  16. Neato Torpedo - Apr 18, 2011 at 8:26 PM

    @Anonymous – wrote: >>He is one boot from leading the league in errors.<<What? Danny Espinosa isn't one boot away from leading the league in errors – he has 2 errors this season, and at least 2 players (Daric Barton of the As and Angel Sanchez of the Astros) have 5. Espinosa doesn't even lead the *Nationals* in errors this year. That distinction goes to noted defensive machine Ian Desmond:http://www.fangraphs.com/winss.aspx?team=Nationals&pos=all&stats=fld&qual=0&type=0&season=2011&month=0&season1=2011 For whatever reason, I believe Espinosa is the real deal. I feel like he's a guy that when we lean on him will come through. I feel much more confident in his approach to the ball and his throws, compared to Desmond. Which is why I constantly prattle on like a broken record that we should move him to SS.

  17. Scooter - Apr 18, 2011 at 8:34 PM

    Information should be shared, Jane. I'm not going to go looking up stats just for myself! (Egad.) The important thing is knowing where to look.

  18. Andrew - Apr 18, 2011 at 8:41 PM

    Great stuff to read on a baseball travel day!Also, Espinosa was drafted by Bowden in the 3rd round of the 2008 Draft and played in the 2009 Futures Game at the All Star Game.

  19. MicheleS - Apr 18, 2011 at 9:00 PM

    Mark, just saw on MLB Network, from no less than Mr. Peter Gammons HOF, and he said that that Nats are looking to trade for BJ Upton (CF-Rays). Do you have any information – Like who would go in the trade – Please tell me it is NOT someone on the current Major League roster.. Like ESPI. Would they trade Norris/Flores/or any of the pitchers in the Minors? They could take Roger Bernadina. What is Upton Like? Hear he might be a head case – we don't need another Centerfielder that is a head case. We just got rid of one of those!

  20. Doc - Apr 18, 2011 at 9:25 PM

    Cranky for Espi, Stor, and JZim! Phew! Glad that didn't happen. Rizzo must have been drinking homebrew wine at the time. Rizzo has STs on the brain. Noooooo ST whose name isn't C.C. Sabathia would be worth those three. Not even sure C.C. would be worth those three—and maybe not worth any of two of those.I want to see Espi, JZim, and Stor in an All Star game–one that Rizzo isn't invited to.Let's review the trade for Cranky at the end of the season. Nats win, Nats win!!!!

  21. TimDz - Apr 18, 2011 at 9:32 PM

    Interesting news from Cincinatti:http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110418&content_id=17944298&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlbApparently, one of the Reds' young guns got caught attempting a five finger discount from Macys…

  22. Tim - Apr 18, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    You have to trade multiple MLB ready prospects to get a veteran ace pitcher. Thats just the way it is. That said sometimes the best deals are the ones you don't make.

  23. Mikey Morse Club Member # 1 - Apr 18, 2011 at 9:41 PM

    Hmmn, anyone else remember Mr. Klepto talking some smack about Strasburg? My opinion of Leake is sliding.

  24. sunderland - Apr 18, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    MicheleS, I'm sure the Nats wanting Upton stuff is speculation and way premature. The Nats have a weakness in CF. The Rays stand to lose BJ Upton after the 2012 season so trading him at this trade deadline is a possibility. It's even more likely they hold him till the end of the season and then try and trade him. Or keep him into next season and try and deal him at the 2012 trade deadline.If and when the Rays appear willing to trade Upton, I would expect the Nats would be involved, as would several other teams.BJ Upton has had a few on field issues. Everything we know about Rizzo says he will dig deep into this and figure out if this is a guy he wants on the team.Trading for BJ Upton during 2011 would be costly, since he'd be in his final arb year in 2012, under team control and likely to earn in the neighborhood of $6M. Theoretically, the price would decline during 2012 when he would become a rental. Rizzo wouldn't do the rental. He'd only pull that trigger if he had an extension worked out.I'm betting this rumors pops up every couple months, but nothing ever comes of it.

  25. Mark'd - Apr 18, 2011 at 10:49 PM

    I just think back to Longoria last year laying the law on BJ Upton. He comes with baggage.

  26. Doc - Apr 18, 2011 at 10:52 PM

    I think that Rizzo may have had enough with 'head cases' and knows that he's not the GM to change such a player. Nor is there any organizational combo that can change such a player.If in fact he were to find that Upton is one of them, I think that he would step back.

  27. Carl in 309 - Apr 18, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    I guess I would fall into the category of fans thinking it was a bit early to be mortgaging part of the team to fix center field. But the rumors section of ESPN suggests other names beyond Upton–Cameron (Boston), Podsednik (Toronto), and Patterson (Toronto). If the baseball pundits are ready to plan our center field restructuring, I guess we'll be reading about this more often than every couple of months.Of course, if Ankiel suddenly goes on a tear with the bat, those rumors will stop in a heartbeat (and I'll anticipate comments on how unlikely that will be!).And thanks to fellow fans' comments on the balk/no balk call. While it didn't prove to be consequential to the outcome of the game, it was odd to see one umpire make that call and then another change it. I thought that was always a judgment call for a single umpire and the other three stayed out of it.

  28. Anonymous8 - Apr 19, 2011 at 12:08 AM

    The Nats need a RH outfielder who can platoon with Ankiel and that should solve their problem.

  29. Anonymous8 - Apr 19, 2011 at 12:28 AM

    I am watching the Rays game and BJ Upton isn't in the lineup but neither is Adam Dunn for the White Sox.Fuld is tearing it up for the Rays and I know the Rays need a DH now.See, if Rizzo wasn't so quick to move Willingham, that would have been a great fit in a trade. BJ Upton is expendable now that Fuld can do the job.Again, not saying anything is imminent but interesting none the less.

  30. Jeeves - Apr 19, 2011 at 12:52 AM

    Upton hasn't hit in the last two years. And I don't think he is this year either. We have better players in the wings. In fact I think I'd rather have Ankiel.

  31. Anonymous8 - Apr 19, 2011 at 1:04 AM

    Jeeves – I am with you but Upton does take a lot of walks.Here is a player with 6 years of team control and very good upside. His name is Lorenzo Cain and he is the perfect RH platoon for Ankiel.http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?pos=&sid=t541&t=p_pbp&pid=456715Lorenzo Cain was optioned to AAA Omaha to play every day. He has regressed from where he was as he is probably demotivated at this point. He is a righty that probably wouldn't cost a lot and hits Lefties well and has "plus" speed and very good on defense.Time to get him while the price is low(er).

  32. BinM - Apr 19, 2011 at 1:05 AM

    I'd guess almost anything is possible, but I beleive that Ankiel is the Nationals' CF for the time being. The threat of his arm alone seems to have been enough to stop base-runners short of advancing so far this season, and that works in the Nationals favor. I'd be willing to put up with something like a .235/.310/.350 offensive split when it comes with a 'cannon' for an arm in CF. When you consider what's come before him, Ankiel is a clear step forward.

  33. Mark'd - Apr 19, 2011 at 1:20 AM

    BinM, I am with you but a RH platoon in CF makes sense for the right deal and a +1 on Lorenzo Cain to Anon8 as that makes more sense.Rizzo wants to be Trader Mike and still can't figure what the rush was to move The Hammer and Nyjer who had options. He also gave Alberto Gonzalez away for peanuts.

  34. Section 109 - Apr 19, 2011 at 2:06 AM

    Hello everyone–this is off topic, and I probably missed this somewhere, but what happened to the fireworks? Literal, not figurative, fireworks?

  35. Anonymous8 - Apr 19, 2011 at 2:21 AM

    Watching the Phillies/Brewers game and our old buddy Pete Orr comes in to pinch hit in the 9th with the Phillies behind 3-2 and delivers on a RBI single. Orr is batting .455 in limited use but I don't like the fact that Orr is helping the Philthies.

  36. sjm308 - Apr 19, 2011 at 2:30 AM

    I see two posts upset with the Willingham deal. I think when HRod arrives and starts throwing his heat that will take care of the doubters and I still think that Corey might be the answer in CF down the line. As for Nyjer, I don't know that there was any kind of market and I am pretty sure that after he refused to run sprints that he was gone from this team. Agreed that we probably did not get fair market value for either Nyjer or Gonzelez but no one said this would be easy for a last place team. Maybe in years to come we can deal from a position of strength.

  37. Anonymous - Apr 19, 2011 at 3:09 AM

    Nyjer stole the fireworks.

  38. JaneB - Apr 19, 2011 at 3:53 AM

    Section 109, someone in the double header post comments said the FO announced they were cutting back on fireworks. I missed them for the HRs, but REALLY missed them for the Curlie W. THOSE fireworks oughta be reinstated, next homestand. But it's not our call.

  39. Anonymous - Apr 19, 2011 at 4:20 AM

    @Anon 11:09More likely that Nyjer was picked off attempting to steal the fireworks…

  40. natsfan1a - Apr 19, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    Someone also said that there had been a team press release regarding the (non-)fireworks, but I've not seen it myself. My idea if they can't or won't do real ones: play fireworks graphics and sound effects on the scoreboard (not a good replacement for the Friday fireworks shows, but could work for the dingers and wins). You're welcome, Nats marketing folks. Now, about the fan fest timing…

  41. Feel Wood - Apr 19, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    They are now playing some sort of air horn for home runs, followed by Chuck Brown's "Bustin' Loose", and a longer blast of the air horn and some other song for wins, in lieu of the fireworks. Nice and understated, and fine with me since I always felt they overdid the fireworks in the past. I mean, come on. Shooting off fireworks when a last place team takes the field?

  42. Unkyd - Apr 19, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    Cain for Bernadina? Similar upside and stage of development, and we get the righty bat in the OF that we need….

  43. Joe Seamhead - Apr 19, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    Could we use an upgrade in CF? Certainly, but I really think that Rick's defense has been outstanding. This team has established a positive chemistry for the first time, at least so far in this young season. Team chemistry is a fragile intangable in baseball.Bringing in a head case is very risky.We've shed ourselves of the likes of Nyjer Morgan, Lastings Milledge, and Elisha Dukes. BJ Upton seems like another high risk. I'd like to see Ankiel stay as our interim guy and wait for the fine tuning of Bernadina and/or Brown. Oh, yeah, I seem to remember that we have another talented youngster with high expectations down in Hagerstown.

  44. natsfan1a - Apr 19, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    Yes, nothing says understated like…an air horn? To each his or her own, but the first time I heard that sucker go off I about jumped out of my seat. :-)

  45. ehay2k - Apr 19, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    Let this be the FINAL Nyjer vs. Ankiel comparison:Fragile Nyjer is (once again) not playing, Ankiel is. Nyjer could not reliably bunt (especially under pressure) Ankiel certainly can. Nyjer has no arm, and opponents knew it and ran on it. Ankiel has a cannon, runners are held out of respect. Nyjer had no understanding of situational hitting or baserunning, Ankiel has that in spades. And I doubt Ankiel will resort to any antics that get balls thrown at his teammates.But Nyjer sure was fast. Perhaps that helped him run outta here!

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 89 64 --
ATLANTA 76 77 13.0
MIAMI 74 79 15.0
NEW YORK 74 80 15.5
PHILADELPHIA 70 84 19.5
x-Clinched NL East title
Through Friday's games

NL PLAYOFFS STANDINGS

W L GB WCGB
x-WASHINGTON 89 64 --
LOS ANGELES 88 66 1.5
ST. LOUIS 86 68 3.5
-----------------------
SAN FRANCISCO 84 69 5.0 +1.0
PITTSBURGH 83 70 6.0 --
MILWAUKEE 79 75 10.5 4.5
x-Clinched division title
Through Friday's games

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