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Would You Rather Draft: Rickie Weeks or Danny Espinosa?

We started doing these hypotheticals earlier in the offseason as we were discussing potential keepers.  Well now as we get closer to people’s drafts, our own Dan Wade has turned it into a game of Would you Rather Draft.., so I’ve decided to play along.  Second base dilemma here again — Rickie Weeks or Danny Espinosa?

According to recent ADP data, Weeks is the eighth second baseman taken off the board (84th overall);  Espinosa is 10th (142).  As close as they are on the positional depth chart, they are still 58 picks apart, or almost five rounds in your average 12 team mixed league.  Is Weeks that much better a player?  Is he that much safer a fantasy pick that he should be taken almost five rounds earlier?

Look at their basic fantasy totals from last season:

Rickie Weeks 77 20 49 9 .269
Danny Espinosa 72 21 66 17 .236

Is that really five rounds of separation?  Not really.

Now obviously there are certain differences you don’t see just by looking at their respective totals.  Weeks is a veteran and has shown the ability to produce at this level before.  Espinosa has one full season under his belt in the majors.  Weeks produced that batting line with just 515 plate appearances.  It took Espinosa 658 PA to complete the task.  But then, of course, there’s the question as to whether or not those 17 RBI and eight SB balance the 33 points in batting average.  Or do they, in fact, exceed it?

For me, the given overall production from the two is similar enough to consider these differences negligible.  Perhaps, had Weeks not missed so much time with the ankle injury last year, he would have produced totals closer to his 2010 numbers, and then yes, the difference, I think, would have been much more noticeable and would have shown Weeks to be more worthy of an earlier selection.  But that’s actually more of a slight on Weeks than it is Espinosa.

As we all know, Weeks is one of the most injury-prone players in MLB and has actually put together just one full season in his seven year career.  2010 was the only year he did it and while the possibility of obtaining those kind of numbers from your second baseman is incredibly tempting, you have to ask yourself if they are strong enough for you to risk another major injury and possibly lose him for an extended period of time.  Some will say yes, especially since you can consider his numbers plus those of his, say one month replacement as opposed to just the numbers you are just getting from Espinosa.  The combined two should technically outweigh those of just the one.  It’s obviously a risk — finding yourself an adequate stand-by can be tricky sometimes.

However, then there’s the possibility that we’re just scratching the surface with Espinosa; that there’s more to come on the horizon.  Weeks will be 29 this season (30 come September) while Espinosa will be turning 25 come the end of April. Espinosa’s numbers down in the minors and even in his first call-up in 2010 indicate that his power is still developing.  His .178 ISO last year is one of the lowest it’s been since 2009 and it’s probably just a matter of time before a portion of those 29 doubles he hit last year start clearing the fences in the future.  Could it be that, with full season for both of them this year, their numbers could meet in the middle?  And if they do, wouldn’t it be more prudent to go with Espinosa and use those earlier draft selections elsewhere?

It’s a tough call and it depends on how you feel about Espinosa’s development vs Weeks’ injury history.  While normally I like to go with proven talent over upside, especially in re-draft leagues, the injury track record tips the scales for me towards Espinosa.  I truly believe he is going to blossom into a top five second baseman with a strong blend of both power and speed.  His strikeouts may prevent that average from getting much better, but the dreams of a 20/20 second baseman are far too tempting.

And I didn’t even get into the possibility of the Nats trading Ian Desmond to make room for Steve Lombardozzi which would move Espinosa over to shortstop.  Dual-eligibility, anyone?