Over the last month or so the Blue Jays have been using Espinal as half of a platoon at third base along with Biggio, mostly starting him against left-handed pitching. The native of the Dominican Republic has thrived in that role, which has led many Blue Jays fans to wondering why he wasn’t starting a little more regularly, especially as Biggio has struggled.
With all due respect to Espinal, I have a hard time seeing him produce a slash line of .305/.359/.418 if he was playing every day, and I wondered how much those numbers were boosted by facing southpaws so frequently. Turns out things aren’t as drastic as I would have guessed.
In total Espinal has 141 at-bats on the season, with nearly half of those appearances coming against right-handed pitching. There is a pretty significant difference of 44 points in his batting average when you look at the splits, but it’s hardly a concerning bit of data when you take a closer look.
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Have a look for yourself:
Vs. RHH- .281/.370/.469, 2 HR,12 K, 9 BB, 64 AB
Vs. LHH- .325/.350/.377, 0 HR, 9 K, 3 BB, 77 AB
What’s interesting is that even though Espinal’s batting average is higher against left-handed pitching, his on-base percentage (the more important measurement) is better vs. same-sided hurlers. He hasn’t hit for much power yet this year, but he has four doubles against each side, his two home runs have come against righties, and his slugging percentage is a bit higher against them too.
It’s a small sample size, but from the look of things I would argue that Espinal seems to be seeing the ball better against right-handers, even if his batting average doesn’t reflect that. Those nine walks over just 64 at-bats strike me as a very encouraging sign, especially when he’s not getting a chance to see righties on a regular basis.
It remains to be seen how long Biggio will be out, but Espinal has a pretty legitimate opportunity in front of him right now. His plus-rated defence has been a blessing for the Blue Jays’ infield, so as long as he can contribute every now and then on offence, there’s an important role for him on this team. I’m willing to bet that by the time September rolls around that no one will be thinking of him as a platoon player anymore.