Rookie Review: Just How Good is Yoenis Cespedes?

by Dave De Wit

Nobody knew what to expect from Yoenis Cespedes entering the 2012 season, with his floor and his ceiling were about as far apart as those in the Sistine Chapel. Some predicted him to flop and spend most of the year in the minor leagues, while others predicted instant super stardom. As it turned out, the Cuban slugger performed much closer to the high end of his projections.

With only 129 games logged in the major leagues we have to wonder, how good is Yoenis Cespedes?  Here’s what he did last year:

487 At Bats
.292 Batting Average (142 hits)
23 Home Runs
82 RBI
70 Runs
16 Stolen Bases
.356 On Base Percentage
.505 Slugging Percentage
.326 Batting Average on Balls in Play

There is a lot to like here. Cespedes was a solid source of speed and power, all while hitting for a surprisingly high average. Unfortunately, given his complete lack of a track record before 2012, we have no idea if there are better things to come in 2013 or if we’ve already seen his best season in majors.

Scouts have agreed that Cespedes’ power and bat speed are extraordinary. Before last season, Keith Law of ESPN said Cespedes has “plus-plus raw power,” and that it’s “not hard to see him hitting 30 homers in the majors…” Raw power doesn’t always translate into actualized power, but with that kind of strength, his 14.8% HR/FB rate looks legitimate and could easily be on the low-end of his potential.

So his power is here to stay, but what about the other fantasy categories? After swiping 16 bags in just 20 attempts, and considering that he’s still young enough to run (he turns 27 this February), his stolen base total isn’t in jeopardy. His run and RBI totals will depend mostly on health and a little on his batting average. Which brings us to the biggest question regarding Cespedes: Is his .292 average from 2012 repeatable?

He proved that he could make contact against major league pitching by posting an 18.9% strikeout rate (slightly better than league average) and actually improved his K% throughout the season. His ability to make adjustments mid-season will be necessary to keep his K% from rising as teams learn how to pitch against him better.

His .326 BABIP is a little high, but given his good speed and his 19.6% line drive rate, it’s not unbelievable. Actually, his BABIP would have been even higher if it weren’t for his incredibly high number of infield pop-ups. Last year 14.8% of his fly balls were infield flies, which are basically guaranteed outs.

Accounting for a little regression in his BABIP, along with a slight rise in his K%, his average should land in the .270-.290 range in 2013. Which, considering his power/speed production, makes him a bona fide five-category player.

The upside is definitely there with Cespedes. He has a real shot at a 30 homer, 20 steal season with an average close to .300. That would launch him into the top tier of fantasy hitters, but (and this is a big but) there is FAR more risk with Cespedes than with other top hitters.

Remember, we only have 129 games worth of data to work with here, that is not nearly a big enough sample to make accurate predictions. Add in the fact that Cespedes hit the DL in May because of a strained hand, missed almost 2 weeks in June with a hamstring strain and sat a couple games due to a nagging wrist sprain late in the season, and it’s clear that the man is not the picture of perfect health.

All in all, if you’re OK with taking risks or you have a “1st place or bust” mentality, Cespedes is the perfect upside buy in the mid-early rounds, because you could be getting a first round talent at tremendous value.If you’re looking for safety, move your sights to someone with a longer history of major league success, because there isn’t enough data to prove that Cespedes is the real deal.

With such a wide range of expectations, what do you think Yoenis Cespedes will be able to do in his sophomore season?

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  1. big o says:

    Ladies and gentlemen , your starting left-fielder for the American League All-Star Team ….

  2. Jgoods says:

    All that being said where in a 10 team 6×6 would be the appropriate round to take him in without reaching too far?

  3. Dave De Wit says:

    Jgoods – In a 10 team league, Cespedes makes sense in about the 4th or 5th round. He isn’t one of those guys who’s going to fall very far past his ADP so if you really want him, don’t be afraid to reach a little.

    • Nick Tenaglia says:

      I own Cespedes in a dynasty league (30 keepers / 10 draft picks) and I am getting a TON of offers for Cespedes this off-season. I would imagine that this kind of hype is happening in all leagues – meaning that in order to draft him you are going to need to reach for him. I would keep an eye on his ADP as the season approaches, because it could certainly rise quickly.

      • Rotoprofessor says:

        Nick, that is a very fair point and, the problem is, the more hype and the higher you have to reach to get him the less value you are going to get.

        In fact, the hype that is going on could ultimately price people out from selecting him. It definitely is going to be interesting to see exactly where hs ADP goes as we get closer to draft day.

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