Age on Opening Day 2016: 28
How acquired: Drafted in 3rd round, 2008
2016 salary: $2.9 million
2015 stats: 118 G, 412 PA, 59 R, 88 H, 21 2B, 3B, 13 HR, 37 RBI, 5 SB, 33 BB, 106 SO, .240 BA, .311 OBP, .409 SLG, .719 OPS, 92 OPS+, 3 E, 1.8 WAR
2016 storyline: After a comeback year in 2015, Danny Espinosa enters 2016 with a an opportunity to secure the job he's always wanted: starting shortstop of the Nationals.
A natural shortstop, Espinosa has instead played for years at second base due to the presence of Ian Desmond. But now Desmond is out of the picture and second base appears set with Daniel Murphy. That leaves shortstop and Espinosa has already made it very clear he wants to play there.
At Nationals WinterFest in December, Espinosa flat-out said he wants to start at shortstop. Now he will get his best chance yet to lock down the position.
Espinosa will, however, have some competition. Where Trea Turner will start the season is not known at this point, but he's likely to play a factor this year, whether that is at shortstop or elsewhere. There is also Stephen Drew, who was signed to an inexpensive contract but has a long history of success at the position.
Though Espinosa had a solid bounce-back year in 2015, he will still have his work cut out for him this season to stay on the field.
Best-case scenario: What's best for Espinosa may also be best for the Nationals, and that's Espinosa having a strong spring and beginning the year as starting shortstop. That would allow Turner to get some more seasoning in the minors and Drew to settle in on the bench. The Nats would then have impressive depth at their middle infield positions from the major leagues on down.
In terms of his numbers, Espinosa was good in 2015, but could continue to improve in several areas. His .240/.311/.409 slash-line was solid for what he was asked for, but the Nationals would prefer those averages to go up if he is the primary starter.
Espinosa's best-case scenario could look like his career-best season. In 2011, Espinosa set career-highs with a .323 OPB, .414 SLG, .737 OPS, 102 OPS+, 21 homers and 66 RBI. This numbers could keep him safe from the threat of Turner.
Worst-case scenario: Given the competition he will face for the shortstop job, a poor spring for Espinosa could put him in danger of falling down the depth chart. Not only are Turner and Drew going to do their best to impress Dusty Baker, so will Wilmer Difo. If Espinosa struggles early, it could be a crowded mix to fight through. If Espinosa slips up, he could be right back on the bench where we all know he would prefer not to be.
Most-likely scenario: If Espinosa can carry over his 2015 season into this spring, if he plays well in the Grapefruit League, that should be enough for him to start the season as the Nationals' shortstop. But it's not going to be easy for him to keep the job with Turner waiting in the wings. Turner was just named the 11th-best prospect in baseball by MLB.com and has tremendous speed, which Baker has said he covets. Turner is the shortstop of the future and has to play at some point.
Take these season projections for what you will, but Baseball Reference and FanGraphs each predict Espinosa to regress and see his OBP drop below .300 and his OPS below .700. That would not be good for his cause.