Santiago Espinal might be the least likely of the group to find himself off the 40-man roster, but the once-promising infielder might be on the chopping block after the Justin Turner acquisition. Since Espinal’s incredible start to 2022, which led to a surprising All-Star appearance, his star has fallen back to earth with a disappointing thud.
While missing time around a trip to the IL with a hamstring problem, Espinal played in 93 games in 2023, finishing with a .248/.310/.335 slash line with a pair of home runs, two stolen bases, and 25 RBI.
Espinal’s slow start in April really set the tone for his year. He hit a paltry .186 through 47 plate appearances, and while he improved in the following months, it was never enough to wrestle regular time away from Whit Merrifield and, eventually, Davis Schneider.
Espinal had a hard time getting his footing as a part-time player, moving around the infield. However, he did finish the season strong. September was the 29-year-old’s best month. He hit .341 and posted an .836 OPS in 43 trips to the plate. He had five doubles and drove in four runs over that stretch.
Even though the Blue Jays had a short-lived stay in the postseason, Espinal kept his hot hitting going in his two plate appearances, collecting a pair of singles. Can he build on his strong finish for the upcoming season?
Steamer and ZiPS projections both see him improving his batting average, up to almost .270, albeit with less playing time — 78 and 73 games, respectively. It's a long shot, but there's still a chance he gets the bump with an abundance of versatile utility players in the fold.