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Yoenis Cepedes Finds Patience and Fly Balls

Not much was expected from Yoenis Cespedes last year. In most peoples’ eyes, he would start in AAA, get called up and struggle in the majors. He obviously didn’t struggle too much and came in 23rd in Zach Sanders’ Outfield End of Season Rankings. He was within $2 of being the 15th overall OF. For the 2013 season, I see his projected output mixed.

The 27-year-old right-handed hitter did struggle initially in 2013. Over the first 1.5 months, he hit .245/.319/.434 and then went on the 15-day DL for a knee strain. After returning from the DL, he went on a tear. Over the rest of the season he hit .304/.366/.525. He produced at the higher level while struggling with knee, thigh, thumb and wrist injuries.

The main key to his turnaround was an improved strikeout rate. Here are his monthly numbers:

Mar/Apr: 25%
May: 22%
June: 18%
July: 20%
Aug: 17%
Sept/Oct: 15%

With the season long improvements, he is probably in line to exceed his projections in 2013. Bill James projections have him at 28 HR, 18 SB and a .297 AVG. I would normally agree with this ambitious prediction considering his improvement and injuries, but some late season changes make me wonder if his power will be up and his AVG down in 2013.

Here are 4 graphs to compare (Look at the last 1/3 of the season.):

Batted Ball



He began hitting more fly balls which led to more home runs and outs. Over the time frame, his BABIP and AVG took a nice drop.

I think the late season fly ball change increases the uncertainty for the 2013 season. Will he be trying for home runs or just hitting the ball hard? I think the range of outcomes could be .250 AVG with 35 HR or a .310 AVG with 20 HR. Expect value from him, but the source of the value could change based on his batted ball profile.

Yoenis Cespedes did better than anyone anticipated in 2012. Expect more the same high level of production in 2013. The only questions would be if his late season fly ball tendencies continue and affect his output.