Yu Darvish isn’t baseball’s only super-hyped, high-priced international import this year; the Athletics also made waves when they signed Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. There has been some speculation that he could begin the season in the minors just to get acclimated to the best pitching he’s ever faced (as well as shake off the rust after such a long layoff), but it doesn’t sound like that will happen after signing for four years and $36 million.
As is always the case with these imports, their fantasy value is a great unknown. If you close your eyes and dream on Cespedes, you see Jose Bautista and his massive pop or Matt Kemp and his power-speed combo, but those are some ridiculously outrageous expectations. Could he do that? Sure, anything is possible. I just wouldn’t bet on it. We never did crowdsource Cespedes’ expected performance like we did Darvish, but Eno Sarris did take a look at the Davenport translations. Allow me to excerpt…
But we do have numbers, and Clay Davenport collected them all in one place for us. Cespedes rocked the Cuban Serie Nacional to the tune of a .323/.424/.667 line and a league-leading 33 home runs (in 354 at-bats), but the league is an inconsistent one. At any given time, he faced pitchers that might grade out anywhere from American junior college to Triple-A. Put it all into a blender and add what we know about past imports, and Davenport produced a translated .245/.311/.469 line with 22 home runs and eight stolen bases.
With 34 walks against 67 strikeouts in 375 at-bats, good power, and just enough speed, Cespedes seems to Davenport like a contact-leaning aggressive young outfield bat in the mode of Adam Jones. That may not seem like the most exciting package given all the hype the Cuban has gotten to date, but both the Athletics — who are paying him for about two wins a year — and fantasy owners — who are only spending about a 195th draft pick on Cespedes on average — would get serious value if Cespedes managed a Jonesian outcome. And the fact that he managed 22 and eight in only 400+ translated plate appearances means there’s upside beyond.
With the state of the Oakland outfield, he’ll get plenty of leash. That might be important. If the Jones comp follows to a tee, Cespedes might struggle with the league at first. Of course, Jones was 23 (and four years younger) when he first hit the league, but there’s going to be an adjustment period for Cespedes most likely. Since the Athletics don’t have the same new-stadium induced pressure to succeed as the Marlins, they can let The Showcase adjust.
As Eno said, Cespedes is being drafted with the 195th overall pick on average, so after the 15th round in standard 12-team mixed leagues. I suspect his auction value will creep into the double-digits regardless of format, but I’m not sure I’d commit that much cash. I’m a sucker for sure things, as if they actually exist in baseball.
Anyway, just like we did with Darvish yesterday, here’s a poll for Cespedes’ draft round and auction value. Same rules apply. Thanks in advance.