- FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy -

Whither Yoenis Cespedes?

I almost wish I played in a league where Box Jump and Leg Press were scoring categories, because at least then I would know where to draft Yoenis Cespedes. There’s surely more to the Cuban import than just what he showed in his YouTube video that went viral earlier this offseason, but exactly whether he’ll be able to translate his physical prowess into practical production is still very much an open debate.

ZiPS has him hitting .265/.329/.418 with 21 HR and 9 SB, very similar to Alex Rodriguez (.264/.350/.474 with 21 HR and 7 SB), Adam Jones (.278/.322/.447 with 22 HR and 11 SB), and Torii Hunter (.261/.329/.431 with 20 HR and 9 SB). Rodriguez is going by far the earliest of the bunch at 59 according to ESPN, though name recognition and positional issues certainly play into that. Jones falls to 84th overall and 19th among outfielders, while Hunter lands at 147. Cespedes has an ADP of 201, placing him between Colby Rasmus and Alfonso Soriano, but I wonder how accurate that is.

ADP is far more useful for players who consistently fall in the same area. B.J. Upton’s ADP of 80 tells me that if I want him, I’ll need to have taken him in or before the 7th round of most drafts; there are obviously drafts that constitute outliers, but I doubt he’s available after the 10th of even the oddest draft. With Cespedes, I don’t think there is really that same point, the point at which you know he could be taken at any moment. The earliest I’ve seen Cespedes go was 126th in a 14-team mixed redraft, and while the owner admitted to reaching, no one openly criticized the move — unlike the pick of Delmon Young in the late 7th round of that same draft, which yielded some scoffing.

Having solicited responses on twitter and around the Fangraphs staff of where Cespedes was going in normal leagues — 5X5 or 6X6 redrafts or leagues with a small number of keepers — I got a wide span of answers: 126, 137, 148, 191, 203, 206, 228, and 234. He also went for $15 in an AL-only auction and 99th in an AL-only snake. Certainly, players rise and fall with the idiosyncrasies of the specific league and draft, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a player with a draft span of 100 picks or more.

I’m confident that I’d rather have Cespedes anywhere deeper than pick 150 than Hunter earlier than 150, but there are still so many questions surrounding him. His new home park is going to hurt his power numbers. Clay Davenport grades the Cuban league as comparable to Low-A here in the states, and also notes that Cespedes’ former home park was the most hitter-friendly park in the league, that’s just not so with O.Co. Switching leagues will hurt his production, the increased competition will hurt his production, and yet he brings enough potential to the table that I want him on my teams, I just don’t want to be out my 10th round pick or higher if he busts this season.

There is always some volatility with rookies, even if they follow a relatively normal development track, and Cespedes just has an exaggerated version of that uncertainty. I think the best course of action is to decide if you want him at all and work from there. If you’d rather pass on the risk, that’s fine, don’t worry about where he goes — or do, and leave it in the comments for more data points on his actual draft position. If you are interested in him, it seems more useful to me to think of his ADP as 150 rather than 200. Anything above 150 is a definite reach, but at any point after 150, someone could get grabby and snap him up. For my part, I’ll still be targeting him closer to 200 than 150, but if he’s sitting there in the 170s or 180s and makes sense, I won’t feel too bad about making a reach to grab him.