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Better know your Blue Jays 40-man: Santiago Espinal

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Santiago Espinal came to the Blue Jays from the Red Sox in trade for Steve Pearce back in July of 2018.

We thought of him as a middling prospect. I’m sure we’ve used the term high floor/low ceiling. Last year I said:

But I think it would make a good utility infielder if we weren’t set on giving the role to veterans like Joe Panik. I’m biased, but I’d much rather have a young guy who can pinch-run and play strong defense.

Teams do seem to like the idea of an aging vet in that utility spot, but I’d like to see younger players in the role. If you have someone who could pinch-run, play good defense, and get the occasional hit, why carry one of the Joe Paniks of the world. I understand that the point is that you know what you are getting with Panik, but sometimes a guy like Espinal can surprise you. Unfortunately, the way Panik will surprise you is by getting older. Not that it should surprise us, but it seems to (he says nursing a sore elbow, sore back, sore legs from three days in a row of playing squash).

And this year, he did. A .311/.376/.405 batting line, with 6 steals. And he played excellent defense at third base and better than reasonable defense at short.

I really wouldn’t expect a .300 average in the future, but then I didn’t expect it this year. But the guy put up a 2.5 bWAR in about half a season’s work. So he can fall back some and still be a helpful player.

We don’t know what his role is going to be this year (presuming the owners get their heads out of their asses and we have some semblance of a season), but I’m guessing, at very least, he’ll be platooning at second or third, with Cavan Biggio. But he may win a job outright. However it shakes out, he’s likely to get at least as much playing time as last year, even if he is just in a utility role.

Santiago is 27 now, and he’s likely to have a fairly long career, now that he has his utility infielder union card.

PECOTA figures him to play in 127 games, with 425 at bats and a .267/.328/.379 batting line and a 1.6 WAR. Now, of course, since we aren’t going to have a 162 game season, the counting stats aren’t likely to come true. But PECOTA figures him to play in 78% of the Blue Jays games. So let’s go with that.

Santiago quickly became a fan favourite. Guys who hit .300, when it wasn’t expected, tend to become favourites. Add in that his defense was so much better than Joe Panik (and everyone else who played third for us). Speed and enthusiasm didn’t hurt either.

Poll

If Espinal’s over/under on percentage of games played is 78% I’d take the

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Over
    (177 votes)
  • 53%
    Under
    (201 votes)
378 votes total Vote Now

Poll

If the over/under on Espinal’s BA is .267 I’d take the

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Over
    (295 votes)
  • 19%
    Under
    (70 votes)
365 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Espinal will get most of his playing time at

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    Third
    (272 votes)
  • 24%
    Second
    (89 votes)
  • 2%
    Short
    (8 votes)
369 votes total Vote Now