Prospect of Day:
Danny Espinosa, 2B, Washington Nationals
One of the best rookies in the National League in 2011 is Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa. Currently hitting .273/.368/.509 through 18 games, Espinosa provides solid defense at second base with more pop (so far anyway) than most middle infielders.
Espinosa was drafted by the Nationals in the third round in 2008 out of Long Beach State University. He hit .264/.375/.460 with 18 homers, 74 walks, and 29 steals in 133 games for High-A Potomac in 2009, along with decent defense at shortstop. He began '10 in Double-A, hitting .262/.334/.464 with 18 homers in 99 games for Harrisburg. Promoted to Triple-A, he was hot in 24 games for Syracuse (.295/.349/.463), earning an audition in Washington down the stretch. He hit .214/.277/.447 in 28 games for the Nationals, then earned the second base job this spring.
Physically, Espinosa isn't huge at 6-0, 190, but he's quite strong and has considerable pop in his bat. He can be overaggressive, and hasn't hit for high batting averages so far in his professional career due to a swing that gets long at times. His best defensive tool is a strong throwing arm. His range at shortstop wasn't terrific, but looks at least average so far at second base, and he's not excessively error-prone. He stole bases in the minors, but his overall running speed is average. His makeup and feel for the game are highly-praised.
Although scouts don't project Espinosa as a superstar, but he has the necessary skills to be a long-term regular. Don't expect his batting average to be a fantasy asset, but he's quite capable of providing 15 homers this season, with a chance to develop into a Dan Uggla-type hitter as he matures. I gave him a Grade B in the 2011 Baseball Prospect Book.