The 1988 Project Day 22 – Cecil Espy

1988 Donruss The Rookies

Cecil was a player I never understood. Based on what I saw of him back in 88 and 89, he was a highly-prized Rangers prospect, but I remember looking at his numbers on his cards and just not being interested at all. First of all, let’s establish what he was: an insane stolen base threat. Really, the baseball cube says it all about him. Speed: 90. Batting: 54. So far so good. Power: 30, well, that’s to be expected. Contact: 45, okay, you might want that better but…Patience: 35. Therein lies the rub. In his time in the majors, he had a .244 BA with a .301 OBP. You really want more from someone who would be at the top of your lineup. But you know? I also had no idea Espy made his major league debut in 1983 at age 20, and no higher an authority than Tommy Lasorda recommended him to Texas. So what went wrong?

1988 Score Rookies & Traded

Cecil started life as a White Sox farmhand and ended up with the Dodgers in 1982 as part of the Rudy Law trade. He had a breakout year at Vero Beach in 82, following it up with an adequate 83 in AA San Antonio before the Dodgers called him up in September. He hung around at San Antonio for a few more years before he was dealt to Pittsburgh for Bill Madlock. He had a weak 1986, and the Rangers picked him up in the December Rule 5 Draft. I guess the Rule 5 draft worked differently back then or they worked out a deal with Pittsburgh because Espy hung around in the Rangers system until September 1987. In 1988, he finally got his regular shot at the majors.

1988 Topps Traded

Honestly, I’m still confused as to why he was considered a prospect after his 1988 season. Sure, he had a70 stolen base minor league season under his belt, but he only managed a 77 OPS+ in the majors in 1988.  That’s even taking into consideration that he hit six triples that season. He was, however, a whiz with the glove, which I guess is what made him stay in contention. 1989 would be an improvement in some ways, as he got that OPS+ up to 81, but he led the league in caught stealing – not good when you’re only stealing 45 bases. That’s a pretty lousy ratio. He would only have one other season where he played in more than 100 games – 1992 with the Pirates, and he fared no better, with an 85 OPS+ but an abysmal six stolen bases to three caught stealing. I can’t find a history of any injury, but somewhere in there Espy lost his speed, and along with it what marginal value he had. His career WAR? 1.9, the majority of it with his glove (which was also gone by 1992).

My favorite of this set should clearly be the Score card. If you look carefully, you can see the catcher and umpire reflected in his helmet, along with a perspective shot of the stadium. I love stuff like that, and it’s not a half bad action shot, as compared to those static poses on the other cards. Maybe that was another reason I never cared for Espy – his cards were always so damn boring. I can’t remember too many of him in the field at all. Anyway, rolling onward…

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