BLUF: Potential 20-20 guy on an outfield corner, but may not live up to the insane hype.
The Player: Yoenis Cespedes (OF, Oakland A’s) – Along with left-hander Aroldis Chapman, Cespedes is one of the most hyped players to come out of Cuba in a generation. He is the current – though maybe not for long – co-owner of the Cuban single season home run record. Cespedes defected last fall and has been working through the clearance process, requiring only OFAC clearance to officially sign with a club, reported by multiple sources to be the Oakland A’s.
Body: Plus athlete with impressive raw strength. Thick and muscular he is extremely well built with explosiveness and quick-twitch athleticism.
Makeup: A huge wild card. Little is known publicly about his personality but most teams have felt comfortable that he should have at least average makeup. His transition to the United States will be worth watching.
Hit: Arguably his weakest tool. Has length in his swing but still generates impressive bat speed. Hasn’t consistently faced quality breaking balls and has shown some signs of being susceptible to chasing pitches out of the zone. Will likely always swing and miss a lot and doesn’t project to work counts. Should be an aggressive hitter with a fringe batting average. Grade – 30/40
Power: Plenty of strength and bat speed to drive the ball out to all parts of the park. One international talent evaluator suggested he had elite raw power, less confident in usable power. Likes to pull the ball but has strength to drive the ball out the other way. Needs to trust hands to fully manifest power in the big leagues. Lacks power projection because of questions over hitting ability. Grade (raw power) – 60/60
Arm: Shows solid arm strength that could support right field. Can take a while to get rid of the ball and will need to quicken release and improve accuracy. Might be a half tick better than average. Grade – 50/50
Fielding: Gets good jumps on the ball at all three positions though they are better on the corners. Struggles with balls hit right at him. Has average routes and an aggressive style that allows him to make plays on balls in the gaps. Projects better on a corner than in center. Will need to adjust to third deck on stadiums in MLB but should be an average defender overall. Grade – 40/50
Speed: Has consistently showed plus times down the line and some scouts have reported seeing a tick more in him in the past. Could lose a step as he moves further into his physical peak, likely sitting as an average in-game runner long term. Grade – 60/50
Summation: Potential 20-20 player at a minimum, even if he’s a below-average hitter without significant on-base skills. Maintains more value if he proves he can stay in center field but has chance to be an above-average regular on either corner. Questions of cultural assimilation and natural hitting ability will remain until he demonstrates they are of no merit. Good player with some All-Star possibilities.
Relative Risk: High. Though heavily scouted Cespedes will have to make rapid adjustments to a higher level of competition as well as an entirely new cultural world.
Future: The A’s outfield has openings in 2012 and Cespedes will likely be given every chance to make the MLB club out of spring training. If he struggles knocking off the rust and adjusting to a higher caliber of competition, he could spend 2-3 months in Triple-A before coming to the big leagues. He is entering his projected peak seasons and the A’s could suddenly have a middle of the lineup hitter around which to build over the next few years.