Washington Nationals Find a Gem in Prospect Danny Espinosa

Danny Espinosa
Potomac's Danny Espinosa (3), a third-round pick in last year's draft, is among a number of talented shortstops in the Washington organization. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
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By Jeff Nelson
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, May 7, 2009

It should have hurt.

It should have made Danny Espinosa wince or cringe or react in some way. But the Potomac Nationals shortstop swears by his story.

Florida Marlins ace Josh Johnson threw a fastball. The pitch, likely in the mid-90s, hit Espinosa in the hip. And he happily jogged to first base, impervious to pain.

"I didn't feel a thing," Espinosa said, recalling his only spring training game with the Washington Nationals back in mid-March. "I had so much adrenaline, and all I'm thinking is, 'I'm not going to get taken out after my first at-bat. I'm staying in there.' "

Espinosa played all nine innings and finished 1 for 3 with a run scored. The following day, he went back to minor league camp for the remainder of the spring.

"I got that taste of being in the big league spring training game and I want it again," he said. "But I want to be up there and stay up there."

Based on Espinosa's short time in the organization, his wait might not be that long.

After batting .328 with a .476 on-base percentage in the short-season New York-Penn League last fall, the 2008 third-round pick was rewarded by skipping low-Class A and heading straight to high-Class A this spring.

The 22-year-old switch hitter has responded with a .300 average, a .434 on-base percentage and a .525 slugging percentage for Potomac of the Carolina League.

Through 24 games, he has 3 home runs, 12 RBI and 7 steals, while batting either second or third in the order.

By combining those numbers with his play at shortstop -- Baseball America named him the organization's top defensive infielder coming into the season -- the 6-foot, 190-pound Espinosa has thrilled the Nationals' top brass.

"Guys who can really play a premium position like shortstop and develop into a dangerous switch hitter are really coveted right now," said Mike Rizzo, the Nationals' acting general manager.

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