According to Ben Goessling, the Nats are calling up a trio of players today with the expanded roster. Danny Espinosa will be on his first major league stint, 22 year old Wilson Ramos will likely make his longest appearance – in May he was up for a week with the Twins, followed by a 1 game appearance after he was traded to the Nats, and, of course, Collin Balester will return to the bullpen. Meanwhile, Yuneksy Maya is starting in Syracuse tonight, but is expected to start for the Nats some time next week. Syracuse’s season is over early next week, so more callups, including Maya, are expected after that. You’ve no doubt seen Balester this year, but here’s a little bit on the others:
Danny Espinosa – Sometimes he’s portrayed as the opposite of Desmond: less rangey, more sure-handed, weaker arm, not as powerful with the bat… more powerful with the bat.. the list goes on. This comparison is probably unfair to both players. The truth is, in the field, Espinosa has a very good range, and a cannon arm. And he is a very solid defensive player. He’s more similar to Desmond than different, which is why there will be arguments about who should play where. But at this point, Espinosa will play 2B as Desmond sticks at SS. With the bat, Danny has been able to take walks in the past, although this year he wasn’t as patient. 74 BB in 2009 was good, only 41 in 2010 wasn’t as impressive. His numbers, other than the walks, have been similar over the last two years, .264/.375/.460 last year and .268/.337/.464 this year. He also hit 22 HRs this year in the minors, but enough about the numbers. He is going to be a potent member of a strong middle infield combo, and whenever his bat is major league ready, be it today or next year, he shores up what’s been a gaping positional hole in the lineup for many years.
Wilson Ramos – The catcher the Nats stole from the Twins, or so they say. He was acquired in the Matt Capps deal, and he has quickly assumed the moniker “catcher of the future”, especially since Derek Norris has struggled to hit this season. Baseball Prospectus called him the Twins’ #4 prospect going in to the season, and noted he had above average hitting and defensive ability. Ramos has been considered a strong hitting prospect, and posted an OPS right around the .780 mark in each of his first 3 minor league seasons. His 4th season, last year, he did slightly better, with a .795 OPS in 214 PAs in AA ball. He had a poor season in AAA with Minnesota’s farm club, but his time in Syracuse was very strong, he hit .316/.341/.494 in 82 PAs. If you noticed the low OBP compared to his AVG, you have noticed one of his least appealing qualities – he doesn’t walk. In 1598 PAs in the minors, he has only 89 BBs. That’s insanely low.
On a side note, Ramos’ hitting ability seems somewhat familiar to me. On an island, such few walks may not worry one too much for a catcher that can play defense. But couple him with Espinosa and Desmond, and it seems that three potential cornerstone players have similar offensive makeups – decent but nothing special batting average, low walk rate, good power. If all three of them can’t figure out how to walk, they may hit lots of solo shots when they use that power. Hopefully they will all improve with maturity.
Yuneksy Maya – The Nats signed him this year, and he’s already made it to the majors, what a story! Actually, he’s 28 years old, and he’s pitched for years in Cuba. He won the equivalent of half of the Cy Young award in his home country last year, and should be interesting to watch. His minor league appearances have had mixed results, but in his last start, his only one at AAA, he went 4 2/3 IP with this line: 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K. Rumors abound concerning his talents and abilities, but it appears that he has a low-90s fastball with excellent control. He’s had a ton of Ks in the Cuban league, and I wrote a few more lines about him in July. But for the most part, he remains somewhat mysterious, and the Nats are are probably as curious as you or I as to whether he is good enough to pitch in the major leagues.