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Danny Espinosa may be boom or bust for the Angels

Defense? Yes. Offense? You may be disappointed.

San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

In the post-season baseball world, not much happened this past weekend. Well, unless you are an Angels fan, then A LOT happened. Billy Eppler found himself that left-handed bat at second base he was looking for. In fact - he found a right handed bat as well since Danny Espinosa is a switch hitter.

If you are excited about Espinosa’s defense, you should be. He is a great defender and a tandem of Epsinosa and Simmons should make for some fun baseball up the middle in 2017. Espinosa seemed pretty upset with the Nationals about being bumped from SS, so I wonder how he feels being relegated to second base in a Halo Uniform?

Home for the Holidays

The Santa Ana native may not have as much of an issue playing second base now that he is back home. Not only did Espinosa grow up an Angel’s fan - a few miles from the stadium, he attended Long Beach State and still calls Orange County home. Perhaps the change of scenery and going back to where he started will be good for him and may take away that sting of not being able to play shortstop.

Pop goes the ball

Espinosa has some good pop for a second baseman. There are, however, a bunch of guys who hit more homeruns than him last year. Dozier, Cano, Odor, Gyorko, Kinsler, Murphy, and Schoop hit more, and Altuve tied him with 24. Even the Padres Ryan Schimpf had 20 homeruns in nearly half the at bats. Not to mention, ALL of those previously listed guys had a better batting average and on base percentage than Espinosa. He’s feast or famine and led all second basemen in strikeouts this year and he was 7th in all of MLB in total Ks. So yes, Espinosa has some pop but it’s not near the top and it comes at a cost. Don’t like seeing strikeouts? You may have to close your eyes a lot when Espinosa at the plate.

One big month

In 2016, Espinosa hit a career high 24 home runs. From May 26th to July 3rd, he knocked out 15 of those homeruns in just 34 games and in the remaining 124 games hit just 9 more homeruns. Ouch. I bet it was fun to watch him smack the long ball in that stretch, but the rest of the season must have been pretty painful (and I’ve heard this from Nats fans). Also during the month of June, Espinosa hit .309 with a .418 OBP and amazing 1.122 OPS. The problem with a big month like that is he was pretty horrible the other 5 months of the year.

Espinosa splits for 2016:

Above are Espinosa’s splits for 2016. How do the rest of the months look? Yeah, not so great. He rode a hot streak mid-season but seemed to be unable to maintain much else the rest of the year. Interestingly enough, this has been a pattern for his career in that he has a good month and 5 more not so great ones.

Espinosa Career splits:

In 2015 his good month was mostly in June. In 2014 it was July. He seems to have a pattern of heating up around mid-season, peaking for a month or so then trailing off the rest of the year. Most likely, we can look forward to more of the same in 2017 - a season where he skirts the Mendoza line (often hitting below it), while riding at least one mid-season hot streak to try and make up for the rest of his year. If you want to be optimistic, you can hope that Dave Hansen and the training staff can work with Espinosa and help him to find a more consistent approach at the plate. Or perhaps being back home will help.

Good pitch, bad pitch

Espinosa spent 2016 batting in the 8 hole in front of the pitcher. When this happens, there are a lot of occasions where they may just pitch around you. Espinosa had a second highest career walk rate last year (54) and highest ever for intentional walks (12). Had he not been hitting in front of a pitcher, there is a high probably he didn’t even top a .300 OBP (he barely did at .306). Expect him to walk less in 2017 and probably be challenged more at the plate.

Post-season bust

Not many people are expecting to see the Angels in the post season next year, but if they get there, Espinosa has experience. In fact, Espinosa has 12 games and 41 post-season plate appearances under his belt. The problem? He’s been horrible. Espinosa has hit just 3 for 33 in the post season (.091 AVG) with zero extra base hits and 16 Ks which amounts to a staggering 39% K rate. It’s not really a huge surprise given his earlier mentioned mid-season peak that trails off as the season winds down.

Offensive upgrade or downgrade?

The Angels haven’t had more than 10 homeruns out of the second base spot in the past three years, haven’t had more than 15 since 2011 (16 that year), and haven’t had more than 20 homeruns out of that spot since 1996 (Randy Velarde and Rex Hudler). Undoubtedly we will see significant homerun production out of Espinosa of the kind we haven’t seen since will before the Scioscia era. But when it comes to just about everything else, Espinosa is questionably a downgrade offensively. If he can minimize his streakiness and increase his average a bit, he MAY just be an upgrade, if ever so slightly. I didn’t include OBP in the below table since he batted in front of a pitcher which can artificially inflate that value a bit.

This table makes you miss Howie I bet

Not all is lost

Do I like the Espinosa acquisition? Meh. It’s okay. It really didn’t cost the Angels anything so it’s worth a shot. It also probably won’t be long before he earns the nickname EspMendoza and I’m staring the pool now. My money is on May 1st. He doesn’t ground into many double plays (a problem for the Angels last year), he is a better baserunner than we’ve had in this spot the past few year and he IS a huge upgrade defensively. The questions that remain are:

  • Can he hit mid-20s homeruns again in 2017?
  • Can he increase his AVG/OBP and cut down on those Ks?
  • Will his defensive abilities make up for any deficiencies at the plate? (they should at least make it fun to watch)
  • Is he going to provide us with the best WAR and/or OPS that we’ve had out of the spot since Howie left?
  • Will he continue to show his streakiness and have 5 poor months and one great one?