Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Can Yoenis Cespedes Be A Difference Maker In 2020?

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At this point it appears inevitable that a Universal DH is instituted, and once it’s here it will likely be here for good. We’ve already taken a look at who could benefit most on each NL team:

The situation in New York is one of the most intriguing. With Michael Conforto the only guaranteed option in the outfield, though Brandon Nimmo is the best fit in CF, there were three potential names for the other spot… J.D. Davis, Dominic Smith and Yoenis Cespedes. Now, with a DH in place two of those three can be penciled into the lineup every day.

Obviously the biggest mystery is Cespedes, but just what should we expect from? Could he return to being a difference maker? Let’s take a look:

Cespedes is one of the biggest wild cards in baseball, not just for the Mets. Over the past three seasons he’s appeared in a total of 119 games, racking up 478 PA, and none of those came in 2019. He clearly wasn’t going to be ready for the original Opening Day and it’s still possible he isn’t ready for whenever the season finally does get going. At the same time, when healthy he’s clearly the option with the highest upside.

Can Cespedes get back to the player who slugged 48 HR over 782 PA in 2015 and 2016 for the Mets? The question solely comes down to his timing and ability to avoid strikeouts, because power has never been a question
(he owns a career 15.2% HR/FB). Assuming things are similar to 2019, where the ball was flying out of the ballpark, he should return with ample upside in that department.

However will opposing pitchers avoid throwing him fastballs? The last time he played a full season (2016) he showed vulnerability against other types of pitches (Whiff%):

  • Hard – 9.16%
  • Breaking – 15.81%
  • Offspeed – 18.04%

It would make sense for opposing pitchers to flip the script a bit, cutting down on the fastballs and throwing him more curveballs, sliders and changeups. That wouldn’t destroy his value, but over the course of his career he’s been far worse against them (AVG // SLG):

  • Changeup – .225 // .408
  • Curveball – .250 // .513
  • Slider – .247 // .255

While the addition of the DH should help to keep him healthy, he’s hardly a guarantee. At his best Cespedes has the highest upside, but what are the chances we get his best? What is the likelihood that he seamlessly returns and looks just as he did three or four years ago? Or will he struggle with his timing, especially if pitchers are now throwing him a steady diet of non-fastballs?

Low cost role of the dice? Sure, but don’t bet on him thriving. There’s simply too much unknown to assume he can return and perform like he once did.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants
PositionLast Updated
Catcher04/13/20
First Baseman--
Second Baseman04/15/20
Shortstop04/17/20
Third Baseman04/20/20
Outfield04/24/20
Pitcher--

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