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The season that was: Santiago Espinal

A look at Santiago’s 2023 season

Texas Rangers v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

In 2021, Santiago’s first real season in the MLB (after 66 PA in 2020), he hit .311/.376/.405. Some thought that we had a rising star. Others thought that he was playing way above his head and was likely to regress, but even then, there was the thought that he could regress and still be a valuable bat with his excellent glove.

In 2022, Santiago Espinal had a great first half of the season, making the AL All-Star team, and a second half, which wasn’t as good. He had 6 home runs in the first half of the 2022 season and just 1 in the season half. We would have been happy if he could have hit double figures in home runs.

So, we wondered if we would get the great bat from 2021, the good bat from the first half of 2022, or the poor one from the second half of 2022.

Standard Batting
Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ GDP HBP SH SF IBB
28 93 254 230 30 57 14 0 2 25 2 1 18 36 .248 .310 .335 .644 80 5 3 2 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/2/2024.

Santiago had a 0.5 bWAR (down from 2.2 last year) and a 0.1 fWAR, giving him a value of 1.0 million to the Jays.

He had a .285 wOBA and an 80 wRC+ (down from .305 and 100, respectively).

Santiago’s BABIP was .285 (down from .300).

His walk rate was 7.1 (down from 7.3). The strikeout rate was 14.2% (up from 13.8%).

Espinal’s line-drive rate decreased slightly from last year (22.3% from 23.0). Ground ball rate was up slightly (43.5% from 42.9%). Fly balls were much the same (34.2% from 34.0). Fewer of his fly balls left the park (3.0% from 5.4).

Soft contact was way down (10.2% from 19.7), and hard contact was up slightly (25.4% from 24.9).

Santiago hit much better against LHP (.301/.375/.451) than RHP (.256/.304/.342). Someone on the team had to hit lefties.

He hit slightly better vs. LHP (.252/.302/.355) than RHP (.244/.316/.317). In the past, he was much, much better vs. lefties.

He hit slight better at home (.263/.313/.346) than on the road (.227/.306/.320).

Espinal was better in the second half of the season (.279/.319/.378) than the first half (.219/.301/.294).

Santiago by month:

  • April: .186/.255/.256 with 1 home run, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts, in 15 games.
  • May: .233/.281/.300 with 0 home runs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts, in 10 games.
  • June: .256/.383/.359 with 0 home runs, 7 walks, 4 strikeouts, in 16 games.
  • July: .243/.263/.351 with 1 home run, 1 walks, 6 strikeouts, in 16 games.
  • August: .225/.289/.275 with 0 home runs, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts, in 17 games.
  • September: .342/.372/.463, in 0 home runs, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts, in 19 games.

September was good (in just 43 PA).

He hit .254/.320/.299 with RISP.

Defensively?

  • 2B: 304 innings. 6 errors, .953 FA (league average .985). -3.6 UZR/150. Outs Above Average -3.
  • 3B: 161 innings. 2 errors. .963 FA (league average .962). 0.8 UZR/150. Outs Above Average +2.
  • SS: 97 innings. 1 error. .978 FA (league average .972). 10.4 UZR/150. Outs Above Average -3.

I didn’t feel his defense looked as good as in past years. He didn’t have enough innings at any position to get a fair sample size, but he didn’t seem the same in the field as in the past couple of years.

Where he hit in the order in his starts:

  • 5th: 1 game.
  • 6th: 4 games.
  • 7th: 12 games.
  • 8th: 22 games.
  • 9th: 21 games.

The Jays were 33-27 in games he started.


The stat that stands out to me is the Intentional Walk. Why would anyone intentionally walk him? It was our game against the Red Sox in Boston on August 5th. In the top of the ninth, the Jays were up 4-3, with runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out. They walked Santiago (pinch-hitting for Daulton Varsho) to load the bases and pitch to Kevin Kiermaier. Lefty reliever Joe Jacques was pitching for the Red Sox. Kiermaier singled, driving in one. I think that, even with a lefty reliever, I’d likely pitch to Santiago over Kevin. That would turn out to be the winning run.

I don’t know that Espinal has a future with the team. With the signing of Isiah Kiner-Falefa and the number of younger players who can fill a utility role on the team, it is hard to imagine where Espinal will find at-bats. I’m not a fan of IKF, but I’d still say he’s likely to have the better season of the two (and he has the $15 million two-year contract).

I don’t know what they will do with Espinal. He doesn’t have much for trade value. Maybe he can be a throw-in on a bigger deal, but most teams can find a replacement-level utility player in their organization.

I haven’t built up much attachment to Espinal, so if he isn’t back with the team, I won’t miss him all that much. He still has options, so he can be sent to the minors. But, at 29, I don’t know that there is much potential for him to become more than the player we’ve seen for the last two seasons.

Before the season, we asked:

  • Who will get the most playing time at second base? Most (47%) were right in picking Merrifield. 43% picked Espinal.
  • If the over/under on Espinal’s OPS is .715, I’d take the. 57% were right, taking the under.
  • If the over/under on Santiago’s games played is 118, I’d take the. 46% were right picking the under.

Poll

For his 2023 season I’d grade Santiago Espinal an

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    A
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    B+
    (2 votes)
  • 3%
    B
    (6 votes)
  • 8%
    B-
    (13 votes)
  • 17%
    C+
    (26 votes)
  • 26%
    C
    (40 votes)
  • 22%
    C-
    (34 votes)
  • 7%
    D+
    (11 votes)
  • 9%
    D
    (14 votes)
  • 2%
    D-
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (1 vote)
152 votes total Vote Now