Cuban mega star and Dominican Winter League flameout Yoenis Cespedes signed with the Oakland Athletics for four years and $36 million today. The landing spot for The Showcase might seem like a poor fit at first, but it’s not all bad news today. There are even things to like about where he ended up.
First, the bad news. The Athletics have a gaggle of outfielders in the fold already: Collin Cowgill, Coco Crisp, Jonny Gomes, Josh Reddick, Seth Smith and Michael Taylor, in alphabetical order. And Brandon Allen and Chris Carter could play in the outfield a little if Kila Ka’aihue and/or Daric Barton can do enough to hold down first base. Compare that to rumored front-runner Miami, who has only Chris Coghlan, Scott Cousins and Bryan Petersen as outfielders with center-field experience on the roster.
So, yeah, he could have landed in a better place. The right-handed slugger also picked a home park that suppresses home runs by right-handers by 20%. That’s too bad, because what little we know of him is that he has power.
What else do we know about him? We know that he’s been a center fielder in Cuba, but that the 27-year-old looks a little ‘thick’ for a lifetime center fielder. In Florida, he would have been thrust into the center field job as soon as he showed he was comfortable in the Minor Leagues. In Oakland, Crisp and Cowgill are good enough at the position that his glove won’t have much to do with his playing time. The Athletics need bats, and if his bat is good enough, they’ll make room for him on the corners.
There’s one benefit to his new landing spot.
The bat means so much more in fantasy. Unfortunately, just as it’s difficult to project Yu Darvish because the sample size of comparable imports is so small, it’s difficult to say what Cespedes will do on American soil.
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.
And that’s a second reason this landing spot might be a decent fit for Cespedes.