Leonel Espinoza – Pic via his Instagram
Leonel Espinoza had to be pretty excited when the Cubs signed his brother Ludwing as an international free agent this past January. Ludwing was rated as a top 30 IFA by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. However, Leonel has to be even more excited because of his own success this year as he is gaining pub for himself as his own prospect. The 20-year-old outfielder had a breakout month in June. Whether he can keep that up shall be seen.
Height – 6-foot
Weight – 160 at signing
Bats – Right
Throws – Right
Age – Just turned 20
From – Caracas, Venezuela
Signed as an international free agent in October 2020
It had to be weird to sign a baseball contract at the height of the pandemic in October of 2020, but that is exactly what Leonel Espinoza did at age 17. He debuted as a Cub the next season at age 18 in the DSL. After a late season start in the DSL in 2021, Leonel hit just .222 with two home runs and seven RBI in his first month. August was not good at all outside of the fact that he did hit three home runs. But it was in September that promised greater things. That month, he hit .286 with three home runs and 15 RBI. He finished up the season with two games in October. Those last five weeks hinted that there might be something there, especially when it comes to power in the ability to drive in runs.
Unfortunately, Espinoza would not get a chance to show what he could do in 2022. He was placed on the 60 day injured list to start the season on June 6 and he never came off the list until November. As a result, it was no surprise to see him assigned back to start the Dominican for the 2023 season, even though he was 20. But with his brother now in the organization, the two had a chance to play alongside each other.
That did not go well, either. And for good reasons.
When the 2023 DSL season began, Leonel picked up right where he left off in 2021 and won NSB’s Hitter of the Week for the opening week of the DSL season. He hit two home runs and drove in four. He hit 750 for the week with an OPS of 2.300! That’s a pretty good start for the year. The Cubs thought it was so good that they gave him the rare in-season promotion one week into the season to Arizona.
Any hasn’t stopped hitting since.
When this post was written in late June, he was in the middle of a third week in Arizona while hitting .364 with a .462 on base percentage. He has not hit any home runs yet, but it is still pretty early in the process of transitioning to baseball in the states.
While, Espinoza was signed as a shortstop, he has played exclusively in the outfield. In 2021, he spent most of his time in left field, but he did play some center and right, as well as DH. This year, the Cubs have played him all over the outfield, with no particular spot that he plays more than others.
When he was signed, he was a 6-foot and 165 pounds. In seeing pictures of him, he’s no longer 165 pounds. He’s actually pretty well-built for a 20 year old kid.
What to Look for in July
Consistency is the thing I would like to see most from him. I’d like to see him keep up his ability to hit the baseball. I’d also like to see if that power that we saw in the Dominican in 2021 will return. And it’ll be interesting to see just exactly how much the Cubs continue to play him all over the field rather than in one spot in the outfield.
He’s going to be an interesting follow for this month.