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We continue to look at the 2020 Toronto Blue Jays by looking at yet another Blue Jays who made his MLB debut in 2020: Santiago Espinal.
A 10th-round draftee of the Boston Red Sox in 2016 out of Miami, the Dominican Republic-born Santiago Espinal had a rather unremarkable start to his pro career, hitting .244/.330/.267 in the Gulf Coast League that year. He moved up to Class-A Greenville in 2017 and hit .280/.334/.358 in 123 games before moving up to Advanced-A Salem in 2017 where he hit a much-improved .313/.363/.477 with much more pop in his bat (15 doubles, three triples and seven home runs) in just 65 games before he was traded to the Blue Jays for oft-injured (and eventual World Series MVP) Steve Pearce. After the trade, Espinal went to Dunedin in the Florida State League for 17 games, hitting .262/.333/.431 and he hit .286/.354/.395 in 42 games in New Hampshire before the year was done.
Espinal started 2019 in New Hampshire, playing 94 games for the Fisher Cats, hitting a solid, but again, unremarkable, .278/.343/.381 but caught fire after a promotion to Triple-A Buffalo, hitting .317/.360/.433 in 28 games.
Espinal was added to the Jays’ 40-man roster after the 2019 season and was poised to make a charge at a roster spot in 2020, at least at some point during the season. He got into 14 games in the spring, getting 25 at bats and hit a whopping .400/.444/.960 with three home runs, making a big impression on the brass.
After Summer Camp, he learned that he made the Jays, taking advantage of the extra roster spots available as teams got the season going. He made his major league debut on July 25, going 0/2 as the starting third baseman before being lifted after the fourth inning. He would break out a bit in August, having four multi-hit games in the month, particularly playing a lot of shortstop as a substitute for Bo Bichette after Bichette was injured.
Espinal hit .267/.308/.333 for the season with four doubles in 66 plate appearances. Espinal’s value comes from his defensive versatility, as he was able to play shortstop as well as third base and can also play second and the outfield. Espinal was also used twice by Charlie Montoyo as a pitcher, throwing two innings with two runs against, allowing three hits and a walk without striking anyone out.
Espinal has never really projected to be a starter in the major leagues but the fact that he does have some offensive potential and defensive versatility means that he’ll likely be given a shot to earn a roster spot in 2021.
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