Jays Journal contributors will be writing Blue Jays report cards based on how each player performed this past season. In this edition, we take a look at Santiago Espinal.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on the baseball season, Santiago Espinal was on the outside looking in for an Opening Day roster spot.
With the season starting late and more roster spots becoming available (30), Espinal got a spot on the Opening Day roster and made his major league debut on July 25th.
Espinal was acquired from the Boston Red Sox when the Blue Jays shipped Steve Pearce to Beantown at the 2018 trade deadline. The utility-man was acquired for his versatility and his glove, and he showed just that during the 2020 season.
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Appearing at shortstop and third base this season, Espinal slashed .267/.308/.333 and even pitched in two games. He finished with a fielding percentage of .975, making only two errors.
While Espinal batted .267, he seemed to get a bit of luck as his expected batting average (XBA) was .247, while his expected slugging percentage (XSLG) was .350, 17 points higher than his real slugging percentage of .333. Espinal could hit fastballs really well as he batted .342 against that pitch, but struggled to hit anything else as he hit .136 off breaking balls and off-speed pitches.
Again though, luck played a big factor in his batting average as his XBA against fastballs was .280, a huge drop off from .342. One thing to note, almost a quarter of the time Espinal was up (24.2%), opposing defences played a shift on him.
His exit velocity comes at an average of 87.3 MPH while he’s considered an average runner with a sprint speed of 57.
Not much was expected out of Espinal in his rookie year, as he’s widely viewed as a utility guy with a light hitting bat. He showed just that this season.
While he primarily appeared at shortstop this season, that was largely due to Bo Bichette being out with an injury. He also did play a bit of third base, but he can also manage second and can handle being put in outfield as well.
Espinal will be a valuable asset to this team in the future. He can play multiple positions on the diamond and can spell the occasional start to give the regulars a rest.