The rise and fall couldn’t have come any faster and harder than what Santiago Espinal has experienced these past couple of years. Acquired from the Boston Red Sox back in 2018 in exchange for Steve Pearce, Espinal finally got his chance to shine with the big league club back in 2021. Playing in a part-time role at third base, while sharing the duties with the likes of Cavan Biggio, Joe Panik and Breyvic Valera, Espinal put together a solid season in which he hit a solid .311 with a .781 OPS, along with 32 runs scored, 13 doubles, two home runs, 17 RBI and six stolen bases in 92 games played. What made him stand out among the group was also his ability to flash the leather at the hot corner at the same time.
He would then follow that season up with his coming out party in 2022. His rapid ascension in becoming a Jays’ everyday player materialized that season, as he beat out Biggio to become the permanent starter at second base. Not only did he continue to provide stellar defence at the position, Espinal would also have a breakout season at the plate. His hard work and success was eventually recognized when he was named an All-Star for the first time in his career in the process. He finished the season with a .267 average, 51 runs scored, 25 doubles, seven home runs, 51 RBI and six stolen bases in 135 games played.
Despite the breakout season, Espinal did encounter a cold spell near the end of the 2022 season, but many believed it was perhaps just due to fatigue as he hadn’t played in so many games in a season previously in his career. However, his struggles did end up carrying over into the 2023 season. Not only has he lost his starting gig at second base to Merrifield, he has also lost a lot of playing time overall due to his struggles at the plate. Unfortunately with those struggles, which probably had some effect on his overall confidence, it has inadvertently affected his defence somewhat as well, as he hasn’t been as sure-handed as he used to be from previous seasons. It has truly been a disappointing year for Espinal, as he has hit only .222 with a .596 OPS, 26 runs scored, two home runs and 19 RBI in 73 games of action. He will really need to step it up soon if he hopes to maintain a spot on the big league roster with Jays for the near future.