EDWIN ESPINAL, FIRST BASEMAN
|Born: January 23, 1994
Height: 6′ 3″
Signed: Int. FA, Pittsburgh Pirates, 2011
How Acquired: Int. FA
Country: Dominican Republic
WTM’S PLAYER PROFILE
|The Pirates signed Espinal shortly before the 2011 season. He’s a big guy with a good hit tool, but he hasn’t shown more than very modest power. Baseball America named him one of the top 20 prospects in the 2011 DSL and VSL, based on his advanced approach to hitting. Originally a third baseman, Espinal now plays first most of the time. He doesn’t run well and does not project to be good defensively, so he’ll go as far as his bat will take him.
In his debut season, Espinal hit for a solid average and had twice as many walks as Ks. He played first exclusively, except for one cameo at third, and also missed some time with an injury.
The Pirates sent Espinal to the GCL. They had him working at third during camp and he played there some early in the season, but eventually Eric Wood took over the position and Espinal played mainly first. Espinal’s size probably won’t be conducive to him playing third and he’s awkward in the field, so it seems a pretty optimistic location for him. At bat, his plate discipline did a complete about-face and he struck out in his first nine ABs. He struggled throughout June and July, hitting .202 with no walks and 23 strikeouts, but he turned it around in August, batting 319/360/404 with three walks and only three Ks. In the GCL playoffs, Espinal played first over Stetson Allie.
Espinal was the primary first baseman for Jamestown and also saw some time at DH. He played only one game at third. He hit for a good average, but didn’t draw many walks or hit for much power. The one positive sign was that he started hitting for power late in the season; both his HRs and all but two of his doubles came in his last 30 games. His power came mainly against LHPs, as he slugged .420 against them and only .332 against RHPs.
Espinal continued to make progress, showing more power, although not nearly the sort of power you’d want from a firstbase-only player. He also walked more, although his walk rate was still low. Espinal struggled early in the season, posting an OPS of .665 and .656 in April and May, respectively. He got hot in June, hitting 323/368/455, then fell of to an OPS of .710 and .707 in July and August. He hit RHPs better than LHPs.
Espinal was initially slated to return to low A due to the presence of Jose Osuna at Bradenton, who in turn was blocked by Josh Bell in AA. Espinal had a strong spring, though, prompting the Pirates to send him to Bradenton anyway. He ended up as the regular at first all year, as the Pirates initially moved Osuna to the outfield and then promoted him to AA. Espinal improved his plate discipline, but otherwise his hitting fell off. Some of this was probably due to the Florida State League, which is the toughest league for hitters in the minors and where offensive numbers were even lower than usual in 2015. The entire league batted only 248/313/337, so Espinal’s seemingly weak power numbers were above average for the league. Espinal struggled badly against RHPs, though, by any reckoning, posting just a .624 OPS against them, compared to .773 against LHPs. He wasn’t helped dramatically by McKechnie Field, with a .693 OPS at home and .641 on the road.
Espinal was the primary first baseman for Altoona, although he also got into 14 games at third. He showed good hands at first, but not much agility around the bag. At the plate, Espinal hit better than 2015, but his walk rate dropped sharply. He stepped up the power some, but he still didn’t show nearly the power a major league team would want from a first baseman. His platoon split was minimal.
Espinal again wasn’t selected in the Rule 5 draft and the Pirates sent him back to Altoona. He played mainly at first, with two games at third. He significantly increased his power output, more than doubling his career high in HRs. In late July, the Pirates promoted him to Indianapolis, where he hit for a high average but no power or walks in 35 games. For the season, he hit 321/356/482 against LHPs and 283/316/433 against RHPs.
Espinal isn’t too dissimilar to Jose Osuna: a first baseman who doesn’t run well and who makes contact but for most of his career hasn’t shown much power. That may not work in his favor, as the Pirates already have Osuna on the 40-man roster. Espinal will become a minor league free agent in the fall if the Pirates don’t add him to the roster.
|2017: Minor League Contract|
|Signing Bonus: $150,000
MiLB Debut: 2011
MLB Debut: N/A
MiLB FA Eligible: 2017
MLB FA Eligible: N/A
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: N/A
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|April 16, 2011: Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an international free agent.|