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January 16, 2014 posted by Collin Hager

2014 Fantasy Baseball Trawling the Depths: Nationals Second Base Edition

2014 Fantasy Baseball Trawling the Depths: Nationals Second Base Edition
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The depth at Second Base is better than many think. The emergence of players like Brian Dozier and the emergence of players like Ben Zobrist have helped create a position that can go 12 to 15 deep without much overall drop off. Some of the battles here will likely muddy the early water. One such battle is taking place in Washington where Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa will battle to see who gets the majority of the at-bats at the start of the season. Both players have their pros and cons, but one certainly has the upside to benefit fantasy owners greatly.

When looking at Espinosa, many will see the struggles in the first portion of 2013 and say he is bound to be a “4A” player. This is a player that has shown a strikeout rate greater than 25 percent in each of his four seasons with Washington. Additionally, his BABIP was north of .300 in only one of those years. He does possess some seemingly decent power having hit 21 home runs in 2011 and 17 in 2012 to go with a combined 37 steals in those two seasons as well. Espinosa has the ability to provide better than average value and at these numbers would crack the top-15 on the HVaC scoring system despite the issues in batting average.

The Nationals have already stated that Espinosa will be given a chance to compete for a starting spot in the lineup and it is possible to see why given these totals. That said, he will be pushed and it will not be easy for him to take back a job. After all, the Nationals passed on even making Espinosa a September call up in 2013. That simply shows how far out of favor he has fallen within the organization.

And then there’s Rendon. The feeling in Washington is that he provides additional length to the lineup, giving them a bat in a lower spot in the order they would not otherwise have. Still, Rendon’s power is not the same as what they would get from Espinosa and the speed portion to his game is lacking. Rendon makes more frequent contact, striking out half as often, and has shown a greater ability to take walks and get on base overall. In only his rookie season, Rendon’s walk rate was four times better than what Espinosa had put up in his 2013 stint with Washington. Rendon also provides a better overall average and more consistent BABIP numbers over his career in the minors.

The question with Rendon will be what he can become and where does the upside stop. The former first round selection played at three different levels in 2013 and combined for 13 homeruns to go with 57 runs scored and 59 RBI over 134 games. His ISO numbers have been steady throughout his early career and he could project to be a player that gets close to 20 home runs. Is that this year? Could be, but could also be another year away.

Short-term, given the positional needs, Espinosa’s steals and runs scored provide “safer” value should he win the job in 2014. Rendon gives fantasy owners far more to be excited about and will likely be just as cheap come draft day. Longer term, Rendon’s walk rate, batting average, and developing power will make him a far greater value for fantasy owners. His winning the job now will let dynasty owners build around him for the future while garnering potential upside this year to boot.

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