Position: Outfielder Height: 6-1 Weight: 180
Born: 12-16-1981 Bats: Both Throws: Right
Espinosa was drafted in the 1st round (23rd overall) by the Cincinnati Reds. Early on as a professional, David had struggled with nearly all facets of his game, seeing only minimal progress. The Reds traded Espinosa to Detroit during the 2003 season.
Upon arriving in Detroit, David moved from the middle infield to the outfield in hopes of improving his lackluster defensive reputation. Espinosa put together a solid, if injury plagued 2003 campaign with Lakeland, and appeared to be on the road to fulfilling at least some of his original promise. The 2004 season saw the long awaited breakout of a player with tons of potential. Espinosa posted a blazing hot first half, but cooled considerably as the season went on, finishing with a .264/.366/.440 line at AA-Erie. Last season saw much of the same from Espinosa, who got off to a racing start only to drop off considerably late in the year, while splitting his time between Erie and Toledo. A full time promotion to Toledo in 2006 saw more of the same, with a .275/.354/.492 line prior to July 1st, but only a .250/.371/.375 line from that point forward. Espinosa's hot start earned him TigsTown Player of the Month Awards at Toledo, in April and June.
Espinosa was considered a very raw, five tool talent when drafted, but has yet to live up to that billing. His skill set includes above average speed, enough to cover any outfield spot, along with solid power to all fields. At times, David gets too patient at the plate, putting himself in poor counts and hurting his ability to make contact regularly. He is a much better hitter from the right side, and may do well to scrap swinging left-handed. He gets pull happy and his swing gets long from the left side, killing his ability to be an effective hitter.
Defense has been a struggle for Espinosa, having been moved from shortstop, to second base, to center field, to the outfield corners. He still struggles with the instinctual aspects of playing the outfield, and often takes poor routes after bad jumps on balls. He has a strong, accurate arm that plays well in any outfield spot, but he must improve his tracking of balls immensely if he is to make a difference in the field. After taking small steps forward in 2004 and 2005, Espinosa's defense was bad enough in 2006, that Toledo Manager Larry Parrish often slotted him at DH in favor of other defensive options. David has a strong work ethic and a passion for the game that allows him to remain positive even when struggling.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% AAA
David has routinely battled minor, nagging injuries throughout his career. He has yet to demonstrate the ability to remain strong throughout the season, and must prove he can handle the grind of a full season.
Espinosa's name once again floated around in some circles as a potential Rule 5 selection, but his lagging defense and inability to sustain his success for a full season turned teams off. He will return to AAA-Toledo in 2007, where he'll be expected to play a significant role for a Mud Hens team that will likely have lost most of its outfield punch.
If he can improve his off-season strength and conditioning, preparing himself for the rigors of a long season, he could see a dramatic boost in his performance. Right now, considering the concerns over his stamina and his struggles against right-handed pitching, Espinosa profiles as a solid all-around 4th outfielder, but his simply staying healthy could allow him to far exceed that projection. Expecting David to rank among the ‘Hens team leaders in several offensive categories in 2007, would not be out of line.
Mark Anderson covers the Tigers' minor league system and all of minor league baseball for TigsTown.com. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.