- Full name Daniel Richard Espinosa
- Born 04/25/1987 in Santa Ana, CA
- Profile Ht.: 6'0" / Wt.: 205 / Bats: S / Throws: R
- School Long Beach State
- Debut 09/01/2010
Drafted in the 3rd round (87th overall) by the Washington Nationals in 2008 (signed for $525,000).
View Draft ReportEspinosa is one of the most distinctive players in college baseball with his strong, mature build and slightly bowlegged "egg beater" running style. Long praised by scouts for his work ethic and hustling style of play, Espinosa gets maximum results out of average tools. One scout compared him to former Cal State Fullerton infielder Justin Turner, though with a bit more athleticism. Defensively, his range is fair and his glove work is unorthodox, but he does possess a strong arm. While he handled shortstop well for Team USA last summer, Espinosa is not a pure shortstop and may be better suited to second base or as a utility player. His intelligent and aggressive baserunning masks raw speed that is only average. A switch-hitter, Espinosa has always been stronger from his natural right side, but improved from the left this year. He takes a wicked cut at anything close, and when he squares a pitch up he can produce screaming drives to all fields. Most scouts want to see more plate discipline and patience from Espinosa, who's considered a streak hitter. His lack of overwhelming tools will keep him out of the first two rounds, but he has a lot of attributes scouts love, including the knack to make those around him better.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Espinosa was one of three minor leaguers to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in 2010. He also earned a September taste of the big leagues, following in the footsteps of fellow Long Beach State shortstops Bobby Crosby, Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria. The switch-hitting Espinosa has a tightly wound frame and strong, quick wrists that generate excellent bat speed. He swings hard and has solid power despite his smallish frame, but the Nationals want him to be a bit less aggressive. Harrisburg hitting coach Troy Gingrich helpled him make his upper and lower halves work together more effectively in his swing. If Espinosa can continue to refine his approach and setup he could become an average hitter, thanks to his excellent hand-eye coordination and bunting skills. Espinosa's plus-plus arm plays well at shortstop, and his instincts, intelligence and hands give him a chance to be a standout at second base or a solid at short. An unorthodox defender, he worked hard to improve on backhand plays this year, but he still has some work to do. He has average speed but runs the bases well. Espinosa had surgery to remove the hamate bone in his right wrist in late November but should be ready to compete for Washington's second-base job in spring training. He projects as a solid regular.
Espinosa is the latest shortstop prospect from Long Beach State, following Bobby Crosby, Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria. After signing for an above-slot bonus of $525,000 as a third-round pick, he had a strong pro debut in 2008, then skipped a level last season and continued to produce in high Class A. Espinosa is a gamer with excellent instincts and solid tools across the board. He stands out most for his defense, with good range, sure hands and an above-average arm. He's a good athlete with excellent body control and agility and solid-average speed. Offensively, he's a switch-hitter who can drive the ball from both sides of the plate, though his OPS was .133 points higher while batting lefthanded in 2009. Espinosa has some length and leverage in his swing, which helps him hit for average power but also leads to strikeouts. He tends to get caught on his front foot and could drive the ball more consistently if he learned to stay back and use his legs more. Questions still linger about how Espinosa's bat will play at higher levels, and he will get a chance to address them at Double-A Harrisburg in 2010. Even if he doesn't hit for average, he should do enough things well to eventually earn a job as an everyday big leaguer. Espinosa and Ian Desmond look like Washington's double-play combination of the future.
A three-year starter and leader at Long Beach State, Espinosa is not surprisingly a throwback dirtbag who plays above his tools. After signing for an above-slot bonus of $525,000 as a third-round pick, he hit .328 at Vermont, though he didn't deliver another extra-base hit after doubling in his first two games. Espinosa's only above-average tool is his strong, accurate arm. He's an aggressive defender whose keen instincts and body control make up for fringy range and unorthodox glove work. Though the switch-hitting Espinosa is regarded as better from his natural right side, he fared much better against righthanders (.353) than lefties (.231) in his debut. He has a knack for squaring balls up and can lace hard line drives to all fields, but many scouts wonder how his bat will play at higher levels, as he's a front-foot hitter who tends to take wicked cuts at anything close. He has a slightly bowlegged running style and average speed at best, though he's a savvy baserunner. One scout likened Espinosa to a young John Valentin, but without as much power potential. He's likely to skip a level and start 2009 at high Class A.
Minor League Top Prospects
Scouts and managers generally panned Harrisburg's talent, with one exception. Espinosa followed Troy Tulowitzki as Long Beach State's shortstop and played with Evan Longoria. He doesn't have their star potential, but he does have some similarities to his fellow former 49ers. He plus arm is his best tool, and he also has solid raw power, though not along the lines of Longoria and Tulowitzki. Espinosa has strong hands, quick wrists and a loose swing. He'll get to his power more if he becomes more selective, but he's a bit of a free swinger. An average runner, he joined Belt and low Class A shortstop Nick Franklin as the only 20-20 players in the minors this season. Though Espinosa played exclusively shortstop at Double-A, scouts and managers agree he fits better at second base, where he mostly played in the majors. His infield actions aren't quite good enough for a big league shortstop, but he has a chance to be a plus defender with a strong arm at second. "He has a pretty big swing for a little guy," an AL scout said. "He has more feel for hitting from the left side, he should be a good defender at second who hits .260-.270 and winds up with 15-20 homers a year."
Espinosa had the best offensive year among CL shortstops, but his defense generated the most excitement around the league. He has a strong, accurate arm and plus range to both sides. He's a slightly above-average runner with good athleticism, body control, agility and durability. Espinosa showed surprising power at the plate, and his strong hands and leverage should help him continue to hit for average power down the road. A switch-hitter, he has a long swing from both sides of the plate that leads to lots of strikeouts, though he's a better hitter from the left side. "Will the length of his swing translate at higher levels?" an NL scout asked. "Probably not right now, but he's intelligent enough to make adjustments."
Espinosa signed for an over-slot $525,000 bonus as a third-round pick right before the Aug. 15 deadline, then took the NY-P by storm, going 9-for-11 over his first four games. He finished at .328, though he didn't deliver another extra-base hit after doubling in his first two games. A switch-hitter, Espinosa hits for better average from the left side but shows more power potential from the right. Despite his lack of pop with Vermont, he's capable of stinging hard line drives to all fields and producing occasional home runs. He showed more strike-zone discipline with the Lake Monsters than he did at Long Beach State. Espinosa's instincts and work ethic make his tools play up. He's just an average runner but is aggressive and intelligent on the basepaths. His first-step quickness and ability to read the ball off the bat translate to good range at shortstop, and he has a strong, accurate arm, though his actions are unorthodox.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Infield Arm in the Washington Nationals in 2011
- Rated Best Defensive Infielder in the Washington Nationals in 2011
- Rated Best Infield Arm in the Eastern League in 2010
- Rated Best Defensive Infielder in the Washington Nationals in 2010
- Rated Best Infield Arm in the Carolina League in 2009
- Rated Best Defensive SS in the Carolina League in 2009
- Rated Best Defensive Infielder in the Washington Nationals in 2009