With opening day around the corner, some questions may begin in regards to Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa, and their ability to see the ball. Desmond through 67 at-bats has 18 strikeouts which is puts him in the top 7 in strikeouts and in the top 4 in at-bats during spring training. These are not great numbers. The upside is that he has 20 hits which is good for 11th in the league and his batting average is .299. The issue surrounding these stats is whether or not Desmond can get a big hit or draw a walk (to start or continue a rally) in the middle of the season, or better yet, in September when every hit is important.
Espinosa is a completely different story. Espinosa has played in 19 games this spring, 60 at-bats, 15 hits, and 20 strikeouts. Having a 33% strikeout rate is troubling. Espinosa as a rookie last season hit 21 homers struck out 166 times and had a batting average of .236 in 573 at-bats. His strikeout rate was 28.9% all though this may not be a big jump, but if you do the math (and baseball is a game of math) that means if Espinosa continues to strikeout at this pace, and has the same number of at-bats this season as last year he will end up with 192 strikeouts.
Espinosa is a power hitting middle infielder, who is just about to start his second season. With power hitters, you take the good with the bad (see Mark Reynolds averages, the perennial 36 HR, 217k .238 average hitter). Espinosa will need to take a few more pitches and develop his eye a little bit more. If Espinosa can have more patience at the plate, he could be a middle infielder with a line closer to 25 HR, 70 RBIs, 25 SBs, and a .260 Average. It remains to be seen whether or not Espinosa with develop or if he will just remain a power hitting strikeout king.
Desmond is a little more troubling. He is entering into his 3rd season, and his strikeout numbers are increasing. His first full season he had 109 strikeouts and his strikeout rate was 20.8%. His second season he had 139 and a rate of 23.8%. His strikeout rate for spring training is 26.9% which means those numbers are steadily increasing. He’s headed for 157 strikeouts, and Desmond is not a power hitter. He hit 4 HRs in 21 games batting .280 in 2009, then 10 HRs for 154 games batting .269 in 2010, and finally 8 HRs in 154 games batting .253.
With all the bright spots in the Nationals organization going into this season, this is probably the lone question mark. With the pitching staff being what it is, the strikeouts may not be a big problem. Michael Morse strikes out at a similar rate to Desmond, but he hits 30 HRs and bats .300, but with the game on the line and with someone like Desmond or Espinosa at the plate, any good pitcher with a hard biting sinker, splitter, slider, or curveball could get them to swing at a pitch in the dirt.
These issues will begin to be addressed in a week at the start of the season. Either way it looks to be a very competitive Division in the East. Spring training is at an end, and Opening Day is around the corner.