When the Toronto Blue Jays reduce their 2020 roster, one guy they need to keep is Santiago Espinal
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In the next 1-2 days, MLB teams will need to cut their active rosters down from 30 to 28. Like every other organization, the Blue Jays have some decisions to make.
Let’s take a look at some possible scenarios.
Toronto currently has 15 pitchers, 5 outfielders and 8 infielders. If it were later in the season I might expect them to remove a pitcher from the roster. Jays starting pitchers are still averaging under 5 innings per game. I think they will keep the pitchers at least for now. Maybe, assuming the starting staff gets more stretched out in week or two, they could flip flop a pitcher and a position player.
With 8 infielders, it’s pretty safe to assume that at least one of them will be cut, if not two. Or it could be one infielder and one outfielder.
Rookie Santiago Espinal can be optioned to the alternate player pool without being placed on waivers. It’s easy to see this as one of the club’s two moves. But I don’t think they should go this way.
25 year old Espinal is someone I hope the Jays will take a very long look at. In a very small sample size, he looks like a player who does a number of things right, including things that don’t show up in box scores.
July 26, the Jays went to extra innings with a chance for a rare series win against the Tampa Bay Rays. Per 2020 rules, in extra innings the offensive team starts with a runner on second. Espinal was used as a pinch runner, attempted to steal third, was called out initially but the call was overturned (correctly) upon review.
The throw beat Espinal to third by a lot but just as he was about to be tagged out, he pulled his one arm away and touched the bag with his other one. I recall MLB Hall of famer Roberto Alomar doing something similar when he was with the Jays. Using smarts to maximize the opportunities you have.
Espinal would later score the go ahead run, only to see the Jays bullpen blow the lead and the game in the bottom half of the frame.
Defensively Espinal has played SS, 2B, 3B and a small amount of outfield. He could fill in anywhere on the diamond if a regular player needed a day off.
Offensively, Espinal has an OPS of .793 at AAA Buffalo in 2019. He also had a very strong spring training with the bat, with 10 hits in 25 at bats and a .960 slugging percentage. Obviously his spring stats aren’t sustainable; overall though Espinal looks like a player who can help his team win in various different ways.
Espinal is someone who could be a very useful player for the Jays when they return to contending, even if that ends up being as a utility player. It would benefit him and the Jays to keep him on the active roster in order to further his development. But as a rookie, they can option him without risking losing him to a waiver claim. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as the odd man out.
There are other ways they could go. Personally I don’t see a great deal of upside to keeping Joe Panik on the roster. At age 29, it appears his best days in MLB are behind him. Another possibility is Brandon Drury. Drury does have one minor league option remaining and while his defensive versatility is useful, he has yet to show he can contribute consistently with the bat.
The Jays may very well decide to send Espinal down at this point. But that isn’t the move I would make.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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