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After strong start, Espinosa back in prolonged slump

May 25, 2014, 12:54 PM EDT

AP AP

PITTSBURGH — There was perhaps no more pleasant development for the Washington Nationals in April than the re-emergence of Danny Espinosa after a disastrous 2013 that threatened his future with the organization.

And there has been perhaps no more discouraging development for the Nationals in May than the regression of Espinosa back into the form that led to his demotion to Class AAA Syracuse last summer.

When the calendar switched from April to May, Espinosa was hitting .288 with a .341 on-base percentage and .828 OPS, playing superb defense at second base and more than adequately making up for the loss of Ryan Zimmerman to a broken thumb.

But in 20 games this month, Espinosa has seen his offensive production plummet to disturbing depths. He’s hitting .127 in May with a .173 on-base percentage and .441 OPS. All three numbers rank last among all qualifying National League batters.

The biggest problem: Espinosa isn’t making contact. He has struck out 33 times in May (most among all major leaguers) while drawing only two walks.

It would be less of a concern if this was a blip on the radar. All players go through month-long slumps at some point. But in the bigger picture, this appears to be a continuation of Espinosa’s long-term struggles, with his strong April the blip on the radar.

Combine Espinosa’s big-league numbers over the last two seasons, and it’s not a pretty picture. He has played in 90 games, getting 330 plate appearances. During that time, he is hitting .184 with a .228 on-base percentage, .555 OPS. He has struck out 100 times while drawing only 10 walks.

Now, Espinosa continues to be as good a defensive second baseman as there is in baseball. And because of it, he still is making a positive contribution to the Nationals (his WAR this season, according to Fangraphs, is 0.2).

Espinosa is out of the lineup for today’s series finale against the Pirates, with Kevin Frandsen getting the start at second base against left-hander Francisco Liriano. But given their injury woes and dearth of other options, the Nationals have little choice but to keep playing him on a somewhat-regular basis.

The question that this organization may face sometime in the near future, though, is this: As much as they want to believe in what they saw from him in April, is the real Danny Espinosa the guy they’ve seen every other month over the last two seasons?

  1. Joe Seamhead - May 25, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    We need to just call him Judge Espinosa…and assign him to the bench.

    Bada Bing, Bada Boom…

  2. Hiram Hover - May 25, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    The Nats bad luck this spring was Espi’s good luck. He got a chance to prove that he deserves to play every day.

    I think it’s safe to say that he has now blown that chance. That’s a shame–for him, because those chances just don’t come around all that often, and for us, because we’ve had to watch him blow it.

  3. lphboston - May 25, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
    I realize the team is in a bind with so many injuries, but this can’t continue. Something has to be done.

    • natsjackinfl - May 25, 2014 at 2:00 PM

      Unfortunately, he is the only viable option for a Desmond back up at shortstop.

      • dcwx61 - May 25, 2014 at 7:51 PM

        Lannan him up…..save him down in Syracuse and bring him up in he unlikely event he is needed.

  4. natszee - May 25, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    Sadly, this I old news and it’s indeed unfortunate. Danny needs to find himself but the Nats need offense, not leather.

    • natsjackinfl - May 25, 2014 at 2:27 PM

      When the Nats develope ANYBODY that can field shortstop with major league caliber ability, Espinosa will be gone so fast it’ll shock you.

      • knoxvillenat - May 25, 2014 at 2:54 PM

        So NJ, just who in the Nats minor league system do you see as potentially playing a decent SS in the majors and how long do you think it will take for said player to be ready?

      • natsjackinfl - May 25, 2014 at 3:36 PM

        Nobody close right now but Steven Perez out of the University of Miami and at Potomac shows promise. Didn’t look out of place in the Spring Training games I saw him in.

      • letswin3 - May 25, 2014 at 4:56 PM

        Why do they need to wait for a developing player? Why not go get one? Surely we have enough trade bait to secure a BENCH utility infielder.

      • dcwx61 - May 25, 2014 at 7:56 PM

        If first basemen and utilty infielders (Tyler Moore and steve Lombardozzi) can play outfield, Rendon can back up.
        Store Espi in Cuse in the unlikely event you will need him

        Can’t afford to have a pitcher caliber bench hitter taking up a spot in the majors for the unlikely event that you can’t find a backup ss….The argument doesn’t pass the smell test.

    • dcwx61 - May 25, 2014 at 7:56 PM

      +++1

  5. dcwx61 - May 25, 2014 at 8:02 PM

    in 2013, Anthony Rendon played 4 games at shortstop while Danny Espinosa played just 1. The argument that Danny is needed on a major league bench to back up Desmond just doesn;t add up.

  6. mrnat7 - May 25, 2014 at 8:54 PM

    For the ones who are old enough to remember, the Senators (in the sixties) had a Shortstop just like Espinosa. His name was Eddie Brinkman and he only hit .187 and .188, in 1967 and 1968. Ted Williams became Manager and made him choke up and punch the ball to all fields, in 1969 and he ended up hitting .266. Why doesn’t the brain trust sit Espinosa down and demand he do the same.. If he’s to hard headed to listen then send him to Potomac and wish him the best in the future. Management should have know when he hit a few home runs these would be the result!

    • dcwx61 - May 25, 2014 at 10:19 PM

      Maybe they hope he’ll turn into Aurelio Rodriquez ??? ;)

  7. richardp6 - May 26, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    I grew up with Bud Harrelson with the Mets in the 60’s and 70’s. He started for 16 years and career ave was .236 with virtually no homeruns. In those days MI’s earned their spot due to their fielding not hitting. Lots of SS batted eighth and that’s the way it was. The thinking was their body types were thin and wiry which made for a good defensive build. That’s all changed now so Espinosa’s being judged on his offensive contributions not his defensive contributions. The nats need both but I will say that when the ball is hit to second with Danny out there I don’t have the same apprehension as when it goes to Desmond, who’s in favor because of his hitting. Perhaps they shouldn’t be looking for offense from Espinosa and value his defense more given how poor the rest of the defense is?

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