It is a rare thing to discover that the No. 8 hitter on your team has one of the hottest bats in baseball. Also that he won’t be moving out of the #8 slot any time soon. And that he isn’t complaining about it.
Meet Danny Espinosa, the Nationals’ shortstop who just capped off a torrid June with a grand slam and another three run home run in Thursday’s game against the Reds.
Espinosa plays on the same team as potential All-Stars like Brycer Harper, Daniel Murphy and Wilson Ramos. In June, he outplayed all of them.
How good was Espinosa’s June? He got on base 41 times in 99 plate appearances. He hit nine home runs. And of course he played really solid defense at short.
His OPS of 1.122 ranked 8th in the majors for the month and it is higher than Bryce Harper’s OPS when he won NL Player of the Month in April or Daniel Murphy’s when he won NL Player of the Month in May.
Espinosa’s 1.7 fWAR (wins above replacement) contribution to the team in June is estimated to be worth over $13 million. Not bad for a No. 8 hitter.
What does this performance get him? A secure starting spot on a playoff-bound team and a big dose of extra confidence.
Just a month ago when it came to that starting job Danny Espinosa’s future was not looking quite as rosy. His batting average was south of .200 until the end of May and when the Nationals called up top prospect Trea Turner on June 3rd many expected Espinosa to lose a lot of playing time. Instead, Turner ended up sitting on the bench for two of three games, watching as Espinosa started to put up big numbers.
Is there any chance that this offensive revival will last or will it slip tantalizingly into the history books much like Bryce Harper’s 2015 season? (Too soon? Too soon.)
Yes, it is very unlikely that Espinosa’s bat will stay this hot. He is pulling the ball hard, putting a lot of balls into the air, and a full third of his fly balls are landing in the stands. This insane power streak probably won’t last.
That said, the mere fact that he has put up 15 home runs in less than half a season suggests that 25 home runs is not out of the realm of possibility.
Espinosa also is being more patient and selective at the plate than in years past. His 28 walks and 11 HBP this year put him on track to match or surpass his career highs set during the 2011 season.
Danny Espinosa was drafted by the Nationals in 2008 and has been with the team longer than anyone besides Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg. He has a lot of fans despite tanking offensively in 2013 and 2014. This return to rookie form is one of the Nationals’ top feel-good stories for the year thus far.
There is no knowing what July holds for Danny Espinosa.
We’re pretty sure he’ll continue to go out there day after day and help the Nationals win from the #8 spot.
He loves winning. We love winning. It seems like a solid plan.