Danny Espinosa may still be in the early stages of his career and overall development, but he will need to shake a few shortcomings heading into 2013.
It's been noted that Nationals manager Davey Johnson is aware of the slower pace of his development thus far, but certain key areas must be improved upon in order for Espinosa to keep his spot in the starting lineup.
Espinosa is coming off a season where he led the National League in strikeouts with a monstrous 189 (in 594 plate appearances). He finished only behind Curtis Granderson (195) and Adam Dunn (222) in the entire league.
This is an obvious glaring flaw in Espinosa's game, which he is aware of the need for it to improve. He was recently quoted stating,
"Everyone can say what they want about the strikeouts, but it's going to be one of those things. I'm still learning, I'm still adjusting," Espinosa said. "If I'm producing the way I want to, then strikeouts don't worry (me). If I'm striking out with nobody on, it's not that big a deal. Now, if I'm striking out with guys in scoring position, then that's a little bit of a bigger difference."
Unfortunately for Espinosa, his strikeouts don’t just have a negative impact on his batting average. His total runs scored, on-base percentage, walk rate and run production all take a major blow due to the flaw, basically burying him in the Nationals lineup.
Until he corrects his plate discipline, he'll most likely stay in the seventh slot in the order.
Espinosa will also have to keep in mind that he could eventually have competition at second base if he doesn't make these adjustments.
Steve Lombardozzi is a solid utility-type backup at the moment, but he could push Espinosa for playing time if he continues his consistent play on both sides of the ball.
The Washington Nationals' top prospect, Anthony Rendon, also could eventually be in the mix. While he's expected to start the season in the Nationals' minor league circuit, there have been whispers of Rendon potentially adding second base to his defensive repertoire.
It has recently been reported that Rendon worked on his footwork at second base with manager (and former Major League second basemen) Davey Johnson.
If he manages to blaze through the minor league system, the Nationals could certainly look to get him some major league reps at second base.
With an otherwise pretty complete roster, Espinosa might be the one in the hottest water heading into this season. There are still positive aspects to his game; he provides a nice combination of power and speed (he’s had two near 20/20 seasons in a row).
Espinosa will need to finely tune his approach to hitting in order to secure his future in the Nationals' starting lineup.