What Is The Nationals' Plan For Danny Espinosa?

USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals sent Danny Espinosa down to the minors to find his swing. So what happens when he finds it? A recent hot-streak at the plate has people wondering what the future holds for the Nats' 26-year-old infielder, who began the year as the starting second baseman...

Washington Nationals' second baseman Anthony Rendon ended the "first half" of the 2013 campaign with a two week stretch of games in which he was 13 for 47 (.277/.333/.532) with three doubles, three home runs, four walks and 10 Ks. The 23-year-old, 2011 1st Round pick ended the first half of the 2013 season with a .301/.352/.460 line, 14 doubles and four home runs in 43 games and 177 plate appearances. Rendon, the no.6 pick of the '11 Draft, debuted early this season on April 21st when Ryan Zimmerman went on the DL. The former Rice University third baseman was 6 for 25 over that short eight-game stretch as he filled in for Zimmerman at third. Since he was called back up to the majors on June 5th to take over at second base for the injured and struggling Danny Espinosa, Rendon's posted a .312/.349/.493 line with 13 doubles and four home runs in 35 games and 147 PAs.

"The last week or so, he has been awfully good. I check on him every day." - Davey Johnson to MLB.com's Bill Ladson

Espinosa, 26, had a .158/.193/.272 line, nine doubles and three home runs in 44 games and 167 plate appearances before he was placed on the DL and then optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. In his first 19 games with the Nationals' top minor league affiliate the '08 3rd Round pick was 6-for-64 with 33 strikeouts.

Heading into the International League's All-Star Break, however, Espinosa was on a hot streak, going 14 for 38 (.368/.419/.658) with three doubles, a triple and two home runs over his last 10 games, prompting the question... When will Espinosa be brought back to the majors?

MLB.com's Bill Ladson spoke to Nationals' manager Davey Johnson about the Nats' infielder's hot streak at the plate last week. "'The last week or so, he has been awfully good. I check on him every day,'" Johnson told the MLB.com reporter, "'Hopefully he can continue that. I feel good about it.'" As for when he might return and what role he might return to when/if he does come back? "He most likely will be a September callup," Mr. Ladson wrote, "and become a backup middle infielder."

Bad news for Steve Lombardozzi? The Nats' 24-year-old utility man and backup infielder ended the first half of the 2013 campaign with a .234/.246/.293 line in 73 games and 194 plate appearances over which he hit nine doubles and a triple. In his first full season in the majors in 2012, in a difficult role as a part-time player, Lombardozzi excelled, posting a .273/.313/.354 line with 16 doubles, three triple and three home runs in 126 games and 416 PAs for the NL East Champion Nationals.

"'The Nationals sent him to the minors to get a swing plane, to get consistency with his stroke. These last 10 days or so, he’s been hitting the ball very well.'" - Scott Boras to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore

This year, however, much like Tyler Moore who recently found himself optioned to Triple-A Syracuse to get consistent at bats, Lombardozzi (and the Nats bench as a whole) has struggled in his role as the Nats' utility man.

So what does the future hold for Lombardozzi? What does it hold for Espinosa? Espinosa's agent, Scott Boras, told Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore last night that he was looking for an answer to the second question dealing with the Nats' plan for his client going forward. "'The Nationals sent him to the minors to get a swing plane, to get consistency with his stroke,'" Boras told the WaPost reporter, "'These last 10 days or so, he’s been hitting the ball very well.'" Boras said he planned to speak to Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo after the All-Star Game last night to, "'... get a little bit of a pulse on where they are with him and find out what he’s going to do.'"

Does Espinosa come back up and take over Lombardozzi's role as the backup/utility infielder? There's no way he's knocking Anthony Rendon out of the starting point right now... right? Can Espinosa succeed in the utility role? Is he a trade chip heading towards the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline? What about the torn rotator cuff? The wrist injury? The Nationals have a difficult decision ahead as the so-called "second half" gets underway...

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