After a pretty impressive rookie season in 2011 (21 HR, 66 RBI, 17 SB) National’s fans had high expectations for 2nd baseman Danny Espinosa. I predicted that Danny would have another solid year in 2012, but so far my concerns about his low average and high strikeout totals have been a lot more accurate than my optimism about his power. Through 98 at bats this season his numbers of .194 AVG, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 SB, 34 Ks have made my rather modest projections of .248 AVG, 24 HR, 74 RBI, 21 SB seem totally overzealous. What’s worse is that despite such bad numbers so far he’s actually trending down, going just 5 for 35 (.143 AVG) without a single RBI and 14 strikeouts in his last 10 games. He currently trails only former Nat Adam Dunn for the major league strikeout lead with 34 which amounts to more than 1 every 3 at bats. That ratio may be ok for Dunn with his 9 HRs and 23 RBI, but not for Espinosa with his 1 HR and 2 RBI. This isn’t a new problem for Espinosa either. As I eluded to in my preseason bio of Espinosa (click “I predicted” above for link) he has never hit for a high average even in the minor leagues and has always struck out a lot. His saving grace had been his power at a position that usually doesn’t provide much pop. But now he has only hit 6 HRs in his last 345 at bats dating back to the 2011 All-Star break and he’s struck out 116 times over that span. So although I really like Danny and the way he plays the game, I have to wonder how he’s helping the team if he can’t hit for average or power while playing just average defense.
I know I am a little late with this but considering almost every team still has 160 games left I still think it’s worth writing. I’m going to go through division by division, give my projected standings including win/loss records and give a short analysis on why I think that’s how they’ll end up. After that I’ll go through the playoff match-ups and give out my picks to win all the big regular season individual honors. Brace yourselves before reading O’s fans…
New York Yankees 99 – 63
Tampa Bay Rays 88 – 74
Profile: Adam LaRoche is eight year veteran lefty who played for the Braves, Pirates, Red Sox, and Diamondbacks before signing with the Nationals last off-season. The Nat’s brought LaRoche in to replace Adam Dunn who left in free agency to the White Sox. LaRoche evidently took the job of replacing Dunn a little too literally, matching him strike out for strike out to the tune of a .172 average before his season came to an end due to shoulder surgery. As disappointing as LaRoche’s debut season in the nation’s capital was, he’s been a proven productive hitter and I think that if he’s fully recovered from his injury he will be productive again this year. Adam’s last full season was with the D’Backs in 2010 and it was a very good one. He hit .261 which is only about average but he was a big time run producer slugging 25 HR, 37 2B, and drove in 100 runs for the first time in his career. LaRoche has also been very consistent throughout his career to this point. Before last season he had posted at least 20 HR and 78 RBI in each of the six full seasons he’s played in his career. That kind of production would be more than any lefty contributed to the Nat’s last season. Defensively LaRoche is nothing to get excited about, he’s solid with the leather but he has very little range. The veteran lefty will be the Nat’s starting first baseman in 2012 and I expect him to bat 5th in the lineup.