Usually Thursday’s are reserved for Kicking Rocks, but with such limited complaints and too few games remaining to do much about it anyway, it’s time again to play some Keeper League ‘Would You Rather…?’ Moving around the diamond this week brings us to second base and a pair of young, potentially studly long term options.
At the ages of 24 and 25, respectively, Espinosa and Walker both have the potential to be long term keeper options so long as they atleast maintain their current levels of production and continue to grow and mature as hitters. Given their 2011 numbers and minor league history, that seems to be the path both are headed down. So, gun to your head, you have to pick one over the other. Who’s it going to be?
Let’s take a look at the basic fantasy numbers…
It’s a little give and take with each one, isn’t it? With Espinosa, you sacrifice average and OBP for some extra power and more stolen bases, while with Walker, you’ve got less power and less speed but better RBI production with a much better average and OBP. The RBI situation is easily expected to be different with Espinosa splitting time equally between the 2 and 6-hole and Walker regularly batting cleanup for the Pirates, sometimes third. But the fact that Walker is a better contact hitter with a much lower SwStr% (6.5% to 10.8%) obviously helps as well. Espinosa may be able to clear the wall with a little more ease, but Walker seems like the more polished hitter at this point in time.
In looking at some of the peripherals…
…the K% is potentially the most obvious concern. Walker seems right in line with his 2010 totals and career minor league mark while Espinosa’s has actually spiked. He did drop it a touch from his late season call-up in 2010, but not enough to put your mind completely at ease. He appears to be going the way of a number of power guys — the Sink or Swim/HR or Strikeout Guide to Hitting. It’s not the worst thing in the world, especially if the power is going to increase, but if your league penalizes for strikeouts, then that could be the difference-maker.
Another encouraging thing about Walker is that, while there was concern last season that his .340 BABIP was helping to inflate his numbers, you can see this season that a much more reasonable .317 BABIP may have translated to a lower average, but the dropoff in overall production wasn’t all that high. Walker, from last year to this year, has been remarkably consistent. But perhaps that could also mean an improvement for Espinosa next season. What happens if he cuts down that K% just a bit and sees his BABIP move closer to .300? Not only could you be looking at an improved average and OBP, but a possible increase in power and more opportunities on the bases.
Overall, it would seem that both players have the potential to get better and should be protected from year to year with much regularity. But with the higher power potential and better speed on the bases, Espinosa looks like the better call if you can sacrifice a bit of batting average. What you may lose in that one category will easily be made up for with the others. Walker should be consistent throughout his career, but Espoinosa has the potential to be explosive.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at email@example.com