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2011 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Alert: Washington Nationals’ Danny Espinosa

Tue, Mar 22, 2011

Player Projections, Prospect Report

The Washington Nationals drafted Danny Espinosa in the third round of the 2008 draft. The most recent shortstop prospect from Long Island Beach State (following Bobby Crosby, Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria), Espinosa is a switch-hitter with average tools across the board.

He’s hit .270/.365/.455 in parts of three seasons in the minors, including 22 HRs, 25 steals and a .268/.337/.464 slash in 481 at-bats last season between Double-A and Triple-A.

Upon his September call-up last season, Espinosa hit six HRs in just 103 at-bats. His batting average (.214) slumped thanks to a .239 BABIP and a 45.8 fly-ball rate. His contact rate (69.3 percent) also lagged behind, as did his 29.1 strikeout rate.

Yet despite these struggles, Espinosa has earned the starting second base job with the Nationals, and will likely bat eighth in the lineup. This could changed base on his early performance, however, as the Nationals don’t have a traditional leadoff batter given Nyjer Morgan’s likely demotion. Espinosa’s double-play partner, Ian Desmond, could fill that role, allowing Espinosa to bat second in front of Ryan Zimmerman.

The Nationals believe Espinosa has double-digit pop and speed. Bill James is even predicting 21 bombs and 19 steals from the 23-year-old (he’ll turn 24 in April). Scouts have questioned his ability to hit for average (James projects a .255 BA), but his 20/20 potential is intriguing, especially when you consider his current ADP on Mock Draft Central (380), and the fact that he’s currently owned in just seven percent of Yahoo! leagues.

I wouldn’t want Espinosa as my starting second baseman yet, but he should offer value in deeper leagues. Stash him on your bench for now, knowing his upside is higher than that of any player currently ranked outside the top 15 at the second base position.

Image courtesy of: Amanda Rykoff

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