For the last couple months, Davey Johnson has gone with a platoon at the leadoff spot.
Danny Espinosa gets the start atop the order against left-handed starters, as is the case tonight with the Nationals facing Rockies lefty Drew Pomeranz, while Steve Lombardozzi hits first when the Nationals are facing a righty.
Once Jayson Werth returns, however, Johnson will need to switch things up. Werth will take over in right field, moving Michael Morse to left and cutting down on Lombardozzi’s playing time. So when the platoon is no longer an option, how will the leadoff spot be handled?
Johnson said today he thinks his best option will be Espinosa, assuming the second baseman can continue to improve his hitting from the left side. Another possibility might be having Werth slide into the one-hole, as he did for 12 games last season.
“Either (Espinosa’s) going to be more in that leadoff role, or that’s something that maybe another guy that gets on-base a lot,” Johnson said. “Maybe Jayson Werth would fit whenever he comes back. I really like what we have with Lombo and Espi, but I’m really thinking out of the box as to down the road when Jayson Werth comes back. Ideally, with Espinosa’s speed and being a run producer, if he starts becoming the kind of hitter from the left side that he is from the right side, I’d like to have him getting up a lot.”
The numbers have been talked about over and over. Espinosa has been ripping the ball as a right-handed hitter this season (his slash line from that side is .329/.424./.532) but has struggled from the left side (.203/.274/.325).
Lately, however, the numbers from the left side have been on the rise. Espinosa’s been trying to cut the loop out of his swing when hitting left-handed, and he’s been able to do so recently. Johnson says Espinosa has been more direct to the ball, dropping the barrel on it instead of swooping through the zone.
“He’s been working very hard,” Johnson said. “His approach now is more consistent with his right side. He’s been working at it and it’s been inching better and better. I think he’s getting almost to where he needs to be and is comfortable.”
And if he gets there, Espinosa might find his name atop the lineup on a daily basis.