July 15, 2014
With a focus on pitching last December, the Toronto Blue Jays selected three arms in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Right-hander Roberto Espinosa was the highest selected of the Blue Jays three picks when he was taken with the 6th overall pick of the Triple-A Phase of the draft.
Espinosa was one of the youngest players available in the draft, which probably explains why the Blue Jays were so high on having him in their organization. Currently, just 22-years old, Espinosa discussed what being picked up in the draft meant to him.
“Being selected by the Blue Jays felt really good,” Espinosa explained. “It felt good, because it presented a new opportunity for me with a new organization. Being selected felt like a new beginning to my career. It was a moment I will never forget. It was very exciting.”
Starting his Blue Jays career in the Midwest League, Espinosa made an instant impression on his new pitching coach Vince Horsman.
“I really liked Roberto from the start,” explained Horsman. “What stood out to me at the beginning was Roberto’s ability to throw everything over the plate for strikes. Roberto features a great slider and a slurvy little curveball that he can get over the plate. Roberto makes hitters swing the bat.”
After a slow start to the season, which saw Espinosa go 1-0 with a 7.00 ERA and 23 strikeouts in his first 27 innings of work, pitching coach Vince Horsman knew an adjustment had to be made. The former major leaguer noticed Espinosa was overexposing his slider, so he expressed the importance of a quality fastball for future success at higher levels.
“I changed Roberto’s mindset,” stated Horsman. “Roberto needed to understand the difference between playing in Mexico and playing here. I stressed the importance of the fastball when moving up the levels.”
“Roberto has adhered to the change well,” he added. “Roberto is going out there and is attacking the strike zone more with his fastball, not his slider. Earlier in the year Roberto was relying on the slider a little too much. Roberto deserves all the credit, because he has taken all the information I gave him and he’s applying it to his game. He’s doing a really nice job, it’s great having here with us.”
The transition has worked out well for Espinosa, who is currently 1-1 with a 0.81 ERA and 25 strikeouts since the beginning of June. Excited for the increased velocity in his fastball, Espinosa discusses what stands out to him about working with Horsman.
“Vince has a lot of experience, so I feel good learning from him,” said Espinosa. “Honestly, I’m just trying to feed off of him, so I can learn as much as possible while I’m here in Lansing.”
“My velocity has gone up from working with Vince,” he added. “It feels good. I feel more comfortable using my fastball. I have a lot of confidence in the pitch now.”
Prior to joining the Blue Jays organization, Espinosa spent five seasons in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, playing games for their Venezuela Summer League, Gulf Coast League, New York-Penn League, and Florida State League affiliates.
“I really enjoyed playing in the Pirates organization,” stated Espinosa. “I feel my numbers were pretty good and I made a lot of memories in their organization. It was a great experience, both professionally and personally.”
While playing in the Pirates organization, Espinosa achieved his biggest baseball accomplishment when his GCL team won the league championship in 2012.
“Winning the GCL Championship is my greatest baseball accomplishment to date,” said the young prospect. “Obviously when you play the game, you play to win, so winning that championship really means a lot to me personally.”
Watch for Roberto Espinosa as he continues to develop his game with hopes to win a championship with his new organization.