Now In Los Angeles, Will Danny Espinosa Be A Fantasy Asset In 2017?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The acquisition of Adam Eaton for the Nationals was obviously going to have a trickle-down effect.  It sent Trea Turner back to shortstop, leaving a questionable role for Danny Espinosa.  Given the age/injury history of some of Washington’s veterans (like Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth) it would’ve made sense to keep the depth, but instead the veteran infielder was sent to the Angels over the weekend to fill their void at 2B.

Now the question is what type of value does Espinosa offer, since he should continue seeing regular AB?

The switch-hitter has power, something that no one will question.  He slugged a career high 24 HR last season, and while there was no home/road split there was one in regards to pitcher handedness:

  • vs. RHP – 15 HR in 397 AB (.353 SLG)
  • vs. LHP – 9 HR in 119 AB (.462 SLG)

That split is consistent with what he’s done over the course of his career (.367 SLG vs. .454), so it’s fair to call him a better fit against southpaws (especially with the decline in his SB numbers, with 9 SB or fewer in four straight seasons).  He’s not going to platoon for Los Angeles, but for fantasy owners?  It’s not unthinkable.

Of course he also hasn’t hit for a strong average against any type of pitcher, with an overall career .226 average (.209 last season).  The owner of a career 17.4% line drive rate and 28.1% strikeout rate, it’s an issue that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

His plate discipline is poor, to say the least, though you could argue his O-Swing% has “improved” (33.2% in ’16).  His 14.9% SwStr% is eye opening and the swing and miss stuff isn’t unique to one type of pitch (Whiff%):

  • Hard – 12.83%
  • Breaking Balls – 20.50%
  • Offspeed – 21.60%

It’s a crippling problem, and is going to continue to keep his average limited (at best).  It’s an even bigger concern, after he appeared to be swinging for the fences a bit more than usual (43.1% fly ball rate in ’16, as compared to a career mark of 38.2%).  While he did appear to “fix” the problem in the second half (39.6%), things ballooned back up in September (55.3%).  More fly balls, and in particular a significant number of popups (12.1%), is going to lead to a limited BABIP and further cap his average.

He’s not a 30+ HR hitter, nor is he going to steal a significant number of bases.  One of those two things would help to overcome the poor average, but without them his value is going to be left for the right situation.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings:

Standard League
OBP League
First Base01/16/1703/07/17
Second Base03/22/1703/09/17
Third Base02/06/1703/12/17
Outfield#1-20 |03/16/17

#21-40 |03/16/17
Starting Pitcher#1-20 |02/27/17

#21-40 |03/02/17
Relief Pitcher01/02/17--

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