Archive for Yoenis Cespedes

Jul
21

Getting beat by Yoenis Cespedes

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(REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

If you didn’t stay up late enough to catch the end of the game last night, the Yankees suffered a walk-off loss to Athletics when Brandon Moss singled off Cody Eppley with runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth. Yoenis Cespedes scored the winning run and started the rally with a solid line drive single to center, his fourth hit of the game. He also hit a two-run homer off Freddy Garcia in the series opener and so far has gone 6-for-8 during these two games.

Cespedes has been molten hot since coming out of the All-Star break, going 17-for-29 (.586) with two doubles and three homers in the seven games. He’s been terrorizing everyone lately, not just New York. I do want to make a point about how the Yankees have been pitching to him these last two days, however. With some help from Texas Leaguers, here’s a look at the location of the pitches he’s swung at during this series (all plots are from the catcher’s perspective)…

That’s an awful lot of pitches — I unofficially count eight — right out over the plate and down the middle. You don’t need to know much about baseball to understand why he’s mashed against the Yankees when you see where these pitches have been. Furthermore, here are the pitches he didn’t offer at and instead took for a called strike (or ball)…

More pitches in the happy zone, he just didn’t bother to swing at these. Cespedes has seen 31 pitches in his nine plate appearances against the Yankees and approximately a dozen of them have been over the heart of the plate, at the middle of the zone and below. If you’re unconvinced this is a problem, check out his run value heat map courtesy of Baseball Heat Maps

You can read the nuts and bolts of what this graphic means right here, but in English the heat map shows that compared to the league average batter, Cespedes does most of his damage on pitches … wait for it … over the heart of the plate and at the middle of the zone and below. The darker the green (or red), the more damage he does on pitches in that location. Up-and-away is another happy zone. Combine this hitter with the pitches he’s been getting and well, you get a guy who’s gone 6-for-8 in the first two games of a four-game set.

Now I don’t think the Yankees have been intentionally pitching Cespedes over the plate like this; both Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova were pretty shaky with their command these last two nights. Eppley lives down in the zone with his sidearm sinker and he just caught too much of the plate. These guys just have to do a better — much better, really — job of pitching the A’s slugger on the edges of the zone or even outside of it. Cespedes has swung at exactly one-third of the pitches he’s seen outside of the zone this year, the 43rd highest rate among the 203 hitters with 240 plate appearances. He’s a bit of a hacker and will expand the zone, but so far the Yankees haven’t given him anything to chase this series.

The problem now is just the team’s pitching staff and timing. Phil Hughes is pitching tonight and he’s a fastball-curveball guy, not someone who can run a slider away from a righty. Maybe that new 11-to-5 curveball can do the trick. CC Sabathia is starting tomorrow and he’ll have to rely on changeups away to Cespedes. Hiroki Kuroda is probably best equipped to deal with a guy like this, but he’s not scheduled to start this series. Garcia and Nova can bust out sliders to right-handers but they didn’t do a very good job of it in the first two games. Even if the Yankees can’t get Cespedes to chase those breaking balls off the plate, they have to get the ball out of the middle of the zone. They’ve given him entirely too many good pitches to hit.

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According to more reports than I care to count, free agent Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has agreed to a four-year, $36M contract with the Athletics. He still needs to pass a physical and secure a visa, but those are considered just formalities. The Yankees were rumored to be hot after Cespedes earlier this offseason, but that talk eventually died down. I have a hard time thinking they would have beat that offer anyway.

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Via Ben Badler, MLB has informed teams that 26-year-old Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is now a free agent. He recently established residency in the Dominican Republic, which was step one of the process. By now you’ve seen the Michael Bay-esque promotional video (both of them), though I still prefer 19-year-old Jorge Soler at the point, based on the little bit we know. Cespedes went 5-for-35 with no walks and ten strikeouts in winter ball, which isn’t all that surprising given his long layoff. He did hit a homer though, which you can see right here.

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Jan
12

On Cespedes and Soler

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It’s been more than two months since Yoenis Cespedes burst onto our radar with the first of his two highlight videos, and we’re all impatiently waiting for him to be declared a free agent. That’s expected to happen sometime this month, and in an effort to boost his stock, the outfielder will play winter ball in the Dominican Republic according to Kevin Goldstein and Enrique Rojas. He’ll make his debut tonight, and this will allow teams to see him in actual game situations rather than a bunch of workouts.

We know the Yankees have some level of interest in Cespedes, after all you can see bench coach Tony Pena and pro scouting director Billy Eppler watching his workout at the 4:17 mark of the second video. However, lost among the Yu Darvish hoopla last month was a report from Marc Carig indicating that the Yankees are likely to pass on the outfielder’s services. He says they came away from the workout thinking he can be an everyday center fielder, but again price appears to be an issue. Cespedes was reported seeking an eight-year deal worth upwards of $60M earlier this winter.

Cespedes is not the only Cuban outfielder on the market though. There’s also 19-year-old Jorge Soler, another player who has grabbed the Yankees’ attention. Here’s what Jim Callis said about the kid a month ago (no subs. req’d) …

Six-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Soler has explosive bat speed and power potential. He also has plus speed and arm strength and profiles as a classic right fielder, though he runs well enough to play center. Because of his youth, he’ll need some time to develop, but he should be worth the wait.

[snip]

Soler is four years younger and more talented than Leonys Martin, another Cuban outfielder who signed a $15.6 million major league contract with the Rangers in April. Once Soler is cleared to sign with a major league team, he’s expected to top Martin’s deal.

A year ago John Manuel quoted a scout who said he has “explosive power,” and Callis said he would have been a top five pick had he been eligible for the 2010 draft. As far as I know there isn’t any video of him publicly available, so this is basically all we know about the kid. It’s not much less than we know about Cespedes, frankly.

The spending cap implemented by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t take effect until July 2nd, so Soler will be able to sign for whatever he wants before then. Cespedes is not subject to the cap because of his age, so he can sign for whatever he wants, whenever he wants. I’m not totally in love with the idea of signing the guy though, but I am intrigued by Soler since he’s so young. Assuming the reports are legit and he has that kind of talent, getting him into the farm system at that age and allowing him develop normally can have some very real benefits, even if they have to wait a few more years for the return.

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Dec
20

Mailbag: Yoenis Cespedes

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Run like the Cuban government is chasing you. (Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)

Mark asks: Hi guys, just read the homegrown outfielder story and I was wondering if signing Yoenis Cespedes this winter and getting him to replace Nick Swisher next winter makes sense; perhaps in some sort of platoon with Zoilo Almonte?

Between my post on a homegrown outfielder for 2013 and Larry’s post on Swisher, we had a whole lotta comments focusing on Cespedes and his possible future role yesterday, so it’s worth a follow-up post. For what it’s worth, Kevin Goldstein reiterated yesterday that the Yankees continue to be the early favorites for the Cuban outfielder, at least as far as the consensus goes. Enrique Rojas reported that Cespedes is close to being granted residency in the Dominican Republic on Monday, which he must do in order to be declared a free agent. After the Office of Foreign Assets Control clears him and MLB gives their blessing, he’ll be free to sign. That’s expected to happen in January.

Now, assuming all that happens without a hitch, of course it would make some sense for the Yankees to sign Cespedes with an eye towards a full-time job in 2013. Considering the money he’s likely to get, I would hope they won’t need a platoon partner for him, whether it’s Almonte or someone else. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to “break him in” slowly, perhaps playing him three-quarters time rather than full-time at first, just to let him get his feet wet. But he should still play against both righties and lefties, especially since he’s a right-handed batter and would get the short end of the platoon stick.

Forgetting about the contract for a moment — just because we have no idea what it will take to sign him — let’s assume the Yankees sign Cespedes sometime in late-January or early-February, for argument’s sake. Based on these over-the-top workout videos, it’s pretty safe to assume that the guy is in “baseball shape,” meaning he can report to Spring Training on day one and not be behind the other players. In a perfect world, the Yankees would start Cespedes in High-A Tampa next season (mostly because of the weather) before moving him up to Triple-A Scranton later in the summer. It’s the same thing they did with Orlando Hernandez back in the day, and the same thing the Rangers and Angels did with Leonys Martin and Kendrys Morales. Alexei Ramirez is the best (and pretty much only) example of a Cuban position player stepping right into MLB and having instant success.

I don’t know why I’m wasting my breath saying this, but we have to be very careful to manage the Cespedes hype. The vast majority of us don’t know anything about the guy beyond those two fun YouTube videos, which were conveniently edited to make him look like a star. Ben Badler (subs. req’d) spoke to scouts who backed up the hype not too long ago, so that’s somewhat reassuring. I just get the feeling that a lot of people are expecting Cespedes to be the next Vladimir Guerrero or something, which is so ridiculously unlikely. In fact, the odds are against him even being as productive as Swisher, the guy he’d be expected to replace in 2013.

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Dec
17

Yoenis Cespedes, The Encore

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Kevin Goldstein has a breakdown of Yoenis Cespedes’ latest video, and you don’t even need a subscription to read it. The Yankees are supposedly the “clear frontrunners” for the Cuban outfielder, and at 4:17 of the video, you can see Yankees bench coach Tony Pena and pro scouting director Billy Eppler among those watching the workout. Goldstein says Cespedes’ free agency is likely going to be pushed back into January, though.

I wonder what kinda workout video Wily Mo Pena could have put together…

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Monday (9pm ET): Via Frankie Piliere, the Yankees are currently seen as the “clear frontrunners” for Cespedes. Brian Cashman told Jack Curry that he’s unlikely to make a big money pickup this winter, including international players, but he’d say that even if he had $100M in the 2012 budget to play with.

Saturday (2pm ET): Via Jon Paul Morosi, the Yankees are one of three teams that have shown the most interest in Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The Tigers and Marlins are also in the mix. Cespedes has not yet established residency in the Dominican Republic or been declared a free agent by MLB, but Ken Rosenthal says that could happen as soon as next week.

By now you’ve heard all about the 26-year-old, who had a private workout for the Yankees in front of some serious front office firepower. The new collective bargaining agreement is a non-issue; Cespedes will be a true free agent and not subject to the international free agent spending cap. In an Insider-only piece at ESPN, Dan Szymborksi and his ZiPS system projects Cespedes to be a .265/.330/.435 hitter with about 20 homers and seven steals on an annual basis at the big league level, roughly equivalent to the 2011 version of Edwin Encarnacion.

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Update (Nov, 8th): Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees had some serious heat watching Cespedes in the Dominican Republic, including pro scouting director Billy Eppler, VP of baseball ops Mark Newman, special assistant Gordon Blakely, and scouts Gary Denbo and Donny Rowand. That doesn’t strike me as a routine scouting trip.

Original Post (Nov. 7th): Earlier today the world was introduced to Yoenis Cespedes, the next big thing out of Cuba who will be so over-hyped that it’ll be nearly impossible for him to meet expectations. Tonight, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports that the Yankees held a private workout for the supposed 26-year-old outfielder on Monday, a clear indication that they have at least some interest in signing him. As far as we know, Cespedes has yet to declared a free agent by MLB, but that is expected to happen within the next couple of weeks.

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Nov
07

Spending the Yankees’ dollars

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As the Hot Stove League ambles ever onward toward the orgy of spending and free agent signings that is the Winter Meetings, one of the great pastimes of baseball fans involves spending their favorite team’s money. We spend countless hours on blogs, Twitter, sports radio, with our friends going over possible permutations. How much would we dole out for the Prince Fielders, the Albert Pujolses, the CJ Wilsons of the world? What trades would we make as GMs? What if reality were no obstacle?

Two of the more intriguing names this winter are unknown foreign commodities. We’ve heard about Yu Darvish for a few years. He is the most hyped Japanese pitcher since at least Daisuke Matsuzaka and probably since Hideki Irabu. Despite success in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, Americans haven’t seen much of him since the 2009 World Baseball Classic. With posting fees and Major League deals to hammer out, Darvish will command big bucks, and we still don’t know if he’s going to be made available for American bids.

The flavor du jour is Yoenis Cespedes, a 26-year-old Cuban star who is drawing interest from everyone. While the Marlins appear to be a frontrunner for the outfielder’s services, the Yankees have reportedly hosted a private workout for Cespedes, but much like Darvish, no one knows when Cespedes will be available for Major League bidding. Similar to Darvish, most Americans last saw Cespedes during the 2009 World Baseball Classic when he hit .458/.480/1.000. He has also excelled playing in Cuba and in international competitions.

Both of these players carry a lot of risk, and yet, both are in the eye of Yankee fans. We see Darvish’s overwhelming success in Japan and a young slugging outfielder with Gold Glove potential as ideal pieces for a team with unlimited money. These guys certainly carry a lot of risk, but for a team like the Yankees, they seem to be prime spending targets. The Yankees, who never land top first-round draft choices, should be using their dollars to soak up talent on the international free agent market, and while they’ve done so on the (relatively) lower ends of the spectrum with signings such as Jesus Montero and Gary Sanchez, they haven’t made a huge splash with a multi-million-dollar deal since landing Kei Igawa back in 2007.

So now, Yankee fans want to spend on these players. Let’s up the bidding for Darvish; let’s go hard after Cespedes. The Yankees have a very solid core of Major Leaguers for 2012 and could spend their money on some medium-to-high risk investments that could also turn out to be high reward guys. Spend those dollars, folks.

Of course, reality has to intervene, and the Yankees have been shying away from risky deals. That doesn’t mean the Yanks don’t spend. Over the past three years, they’ve doled out big contracts to Mark Teixeira, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira, Rafael Soriano and CC Sabathia again. They gave Pedro Feliciano a two-year deal for $8 million and heaped a three-year deal on Damaso Marte. In some cases, the Yankees are seemingly spending for the sake of spending, but in each case, the investment is a conservative one on a proven player. It is, in the parlance of economics, safe spending.

It’s not easy to pinpoint why the Yankees, who spent so much on Orlando Hernandez, Hideki Irabu, Jose Contreras and other less successful international headliners, have been reticent to go hard after a Darvish or Cespedes. Perhaps they’re playing it close to the vest to avoid a Matsuzaka-type situation; perhaps without George Steinbrenner driving the need to buy up every shiny new international toy, the various factions aren’t in sync on spending; perhaps the new generation of Steinbrenners would rather spend safely with a ceiling on rewards than risky without. C.J. Wilson, after all is a known commodity, but Yu Darvish, with all of his risk, offers the potential of higher rewards.

So ponder that over as we plan out the Yanks’ off-season. Should the Yanks spend safely on known commodities or go hard after the sexy headline-grabbers with all of the risk involved? There is no easy or right answer in this debate, but the spending choices made this winter could impact the franchise for years to come.

A special thanks to RAB regular Andy In Sunny Daytona for inspiring this post. You should follow him on Twitter right here.

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Warning: The music in the video is totally NSFW.

If you were sleeping, you missed it. Cuban-defector Yoenis Cespedes became an overnight sensation last night, after Kevin Goldstein linked to the above video and provided a massive breakdown of the outfielder’s talent. It’s a Baseball Prospectus column, but you do not need a subscription to read it. Shortly thereafter, Jeff Passan reported that MLB and the Office of Foreign Assets Control is expected to declare Cespedes eligible for free agency in the next few weeks, adding that the Yankees are “particularly hot” for him. It’s like high school all over again.

The video is over 20 minutes long but between the opening monologue and closing credits, it’s about 15 minutes of Cespedes actually strutting his stuff. It’s more of a promo for a Michael Bay flick than a traditional scouting video, highlighting the purported 26-year-old’s insane athletic ability and the opposite field power that allowed him to hit 33 homeruns last season, a new single-season record in Cuba. We get to see him catch fly balls behind his back, run through a series of vertical jumps that put Cody Ransom to shame, roast a pig, and showcase an 80 hot dog tool as he admires his majestic homers.

Cespedes has a little bit of Sidd Finch in him at this point, that “shiny new toy” and “too good to be true” syndrome. Goldstein calls him “arguably the best all-around player to come out of Cuba in a generation … a legitimate center fielder with plus power and speed and is in his prime.” I have no reason to doubt him, but we don’t have the whole picture from where we sit. We don’t know if he can handle high-end velocity, sit back on offspeed stuff, actually take a ball (something many Cuban hitters refuse to do), so on and so forth. I don’t mean to rain on the parade, the kid is exciting, but a little dose of reality is needed here.

Passan says Cespedes is looking for a contract in line with Aroldis Chapman’s, which means six years and about $30M. His agent, Andy Katz of the Wasserman Media Group (who also represents several other Cuban defectors, including Yunel Escobar and former Yankee Juan Miranda), has him working out for teams in the Dominican Republic. Adam Kilgore says the Nationals watched him recently while Juan C. Rodriguez reports that the Marlins are the early favorite to sign him. I suspect pretty much every team in the league will have interest in Cespedes at some point, just like the Chapman sweepstakes.

The Yankees are no stranger to the Cuban talent pool, paying millions of dollars to sign Miranda ($2M), Adrian Hernandez ($4M), Orlando Hernandez ($6.6M), and Jose Contreras ($32M) in the last 15 years alone. That doesn’t include the $54M they reportedly offered Chapman, though Brian Cashman shot that report down rather quickly. We’re going to hear a lot more of Cespedes in the coming weeks, I’m sure of it, and that’s a good thing because we really don’t know all that much about him. Money talks, and the offers he gets will tell us what teams think of him.

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