Signed: International Free Agent in 2007
Birthplace: Santiago, Dominican Republic
Like Carlos Fortuna, Yowill Espinal was signed in 2007 out of the Dominican Republic. Unlike Fortuna though, Espinal signed for a hefty bonus of $250,000 which at the time was one of the largest ever given by the Royals to an international free agent. I don't know what it is but I have a lot of optimism about Espinal. It could be the fact that the Royals organization is barren when it comes to shortstop prospects or it could be the fact that I really want this new stream of talent to start paying off, but either way Espinal is a guy that I am going to be keeping a close eye on in the 2010 season.
Looking at that stat line there are several things that stand out to me. First, the man has a little bit of power, which is a huge bonus for an 18 year old Latin American short stop. Also, he has displayed some speed by swapping 20 bases in 34 tries. This isn't a great success rate but hopefully he can refine his base swapping skill set and be a threat there as he climbs the ladder. The other thing that I really like about Espinal's 2009 season is that he took some walks. The walk rate is still a little lower than I'd like but, he showed much improvement from 2008 when he only took 2 walks in 206 plate appearances.
In 2009 Espinal committed 26 errors and according to the great John Sickels he has below average range and will probably be forced to second base at some point in his career. But according to minorleaguesplits.com TotalZone Rating he was 5 runs above average at shortstop last season. I am going to withhold judgment at this point and keep my fingers crossed that he can stay in the 6 hole.
I expect Espinal to begin 2010 in Burlington, IA, but I don't expect him to have an overwhelming batting line and like Salvador Perez in 2009 I could envision him struggling mightily to start the year and then picking it up at the end after a demotion to Idaho Falls.