INF Santiago Espinal
Espinal is coming off a difficult 2023. All aspects of his game took a step back, including his glove.
Known as someone who puts plenty of bat on ball and being slick in the field, only one of those remained true last year. Espinal maintained respectable strikeout and whiff percentages, but that did not translate into a high OBP. Despite a 14.2 K% Espy only hit to a .248 batting average with a .310 OBP, that batting average being a career low. His drop in defence was the surprising part, as Espinal had been a well above average fielder up until 2023. The utility infielder had 9 outs above average in 2022, a metric that dropped drastically to -4 this past season. This performance culminated in a 0.5 bWAR.
Something not discussed enough, Espinal’s game has taken a hit since his efforts to produce more power since 2022. Espinal stepped into almost regular playing time in 2021, playing a lot of third base at an elite level. Espy backed it up with a strong offensive season as well, barely striking out and hitting to a .311 average though with little power production. Still, a 113 OPS+ over those 92 games is an extremely respectable number for a glove first utility-man. Despite this performance, Espinal and the Blue Jays sought more power.
While Espy was an All-Star in 2022, his slugging percentage dropped by 35 points despite hitting a career high seven long-balls. These problems carried over to this past year, resulting in an 80 OPS+, his lowest since his rookie year in 2020.
There’s a chance Espinal isn’t a Blue Jay on opening day. He’s out of options and the infield depth on the Blue Jays is plentiful. The best case for Espinal is that he resorts back to his contact heavy approach, fixes the issues that led to the disappointing defensive metrics, and maintains a backup infielder role through 2024.