Alright, let's get properly excited about Yoenis Cespedes, if we're going to at all

Alright, let's get properly excited about Yoenis Cespedes, if we're going to at all
The Chicago Tribune has recently made it way more difficult to pull photos off their site. As indication of my protest, here's the photo Kenny Williams would use if were to sell himself as an escort // Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

Now that Ryan Madson is off the market for the irritatingly great price of 1 year for $8.5 million, the last expensive but undeniably plus reliever is gone.  Unless Kenny Williams signs off on 4-year deal with Francisco Cabrera rights before the doctors realize what's wrong with him*, the specter of the White Sox panicking at the openness of their bullpen situation and burning their hard-earned savings seems to have passed.  Now they can have Major League-style Spring Training auditions, or sign Joel Zumaya to be J.J. Putz The Sequel: Higher Injury Risk!  Lower Ceiling!

But since that won't actually be an exciting process, and the mysterious Yoenis Cespedes rumor has been hanging over for a while, with no real idea of what it will cost or what it will bring or whether it's even possible.  Let's explore that!  There's no way to know the answer to the last two questions yet, and probably no way to know the first one either.  But still, early January is the season for dreams**.

Since his initial, curiously bizarre first entrance onto the scene, Cespedes has made the rounds working out for teams, and a second scouting video has come out with less of a focus on shirtless dancing and pig-roasting, and more footage of the ever-so-telling batting practice highlights and methodically executed running drills.

From viewing, I can tell that Cespedes has above-average speed, can hit a ball out of a Cuban baseball stadium, probably isn't going to be an actual switch-hitter in the major leagues, and has a wonderful career in B-movies ahead of him.  But perhaps a better option would be to synthesize the observations of others more familiar with eccentric scout videos.

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, making liberal use of the 20-80 scouting scale:

"Some scouts have put a 70 grade on Cespedes' power, and it is easy to see why. There is also evidence of some of the length and lunging in his swing that some are concerned about. It's hard to find a scout who has thrown a plus grade on Cespedes' hit tool, but even at 50, it's his lowest score of the five."

Thomas Belmont at Baseball Instinct is more bullish on his power and contact ability:

But one thing we already know is that the stats will not ring true to major league production. With that said, I think that Cespedes will have regression in areas like strikeout/walk ratio and his power output. But even if he regresses to a line of .290 with 25+ HR power while playing CF at an above average level, we would be talking about a 5 year $75mm contract for a player still in his prime.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see him settle in at LF though. So that line would make league average at best. It’s going to take some continued development of his power to make him a top level player in LF. If you take his 33 HR in 394 AB and stretch it out over a full 550 AB you are looking at approx 55 HR. Cut that for regression to the major league level by 30% and he could have 30-35 HR power now that he’s in his prime. That is the line that will make whatever team signs him, get their dollars worth.

There's not really the hubbub around Cespedes' fielding to suggest he's a plus centerfielder, but there's enough in his raw drill scores to suggest he at least has the footspeed to be an above-average corner outfielder.  For a team that already has a competent centerfielder, a competent centerfielder on a mental sabbatical, a fourth outfielder capable of playing centerfield, and Dayan Viciedo - Human Turret, this isn't a damning flaw.

Without having access to Cespedes HBP totals, I would calculate his walk rate in the last season (49 walks in 403 PA's) to be 12.1% with a low, low, low K-rate of 9.9% (40 K's).  Obviously, that would be phenomenal, but Goldstein's notes about his swing along with the fact that his .333 batting average was only good enough for 33rd in the league, suggests that making contact will be nowhere near as easy for him in the MLB as it was in Cuba.  His plate discipline can be expected to similarly decline.

But frankly, even a player who struggles to hold onto an average OBP with power to all fields can thrive at U.S. Cellular.  There are certainly doubts, but I find myself feeling obligated to support the pursuit of Cespedes provided the market for him doesn't explode into the prohibitive range.

I'd feel obligated to support the White Sox by default reducing the amount of playing time guaranteed to Alex Rios, and thereby by default improving their outfield defense.  I'd feel obligated to support any effort actually related to the White Sox signing international talent, or acquiring someone before their prime, or signing someone with upside, or signing someone for reasons other than their production being easily projected.

I'd feel obligated to support it because it'd be fun, a gleefully distracting and circus-like addition to a typically drab and demure clubhouse.  It'd be a showy reason to watch in a year that might otherwise require patience.


He might suck though.


*What's wrong with Kenny, that is

**HAHAHA, of course not.

***Fun note: John Danks is being paid a $500 K base salary this season, with a $7.5 million signing bonus to be paid out some time between June and October.  Hopefully Danks knows what the precise date will be.  I'm just amused by the prospect of him having smaller game checks than Phil Humber.


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  • Sign Ces-pay-day!

    James: If you were to set an over/under on the contract, would it be Aroldis Chapman's 5 yrs/$30mil?

    Also, what is the proper level of excitement over the prospect of Yoenis Cespedes? Is sitting at home alone in front of my desktop computer, staring at that photo of Kenny in the golf cart and singing to him Hot Chocolate's "I Believe in Miracles" ("I believe in miracles...Where're you sexy sexy thang you...") about right? Or is that too much excitement (and creepy and weird to boot)?

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    If the White Sox landed Cespedes for $5 yrs/$30mil, I'd be thrilled, so I don't think that'll happen. Chapman was younger and VERY wild, which probably depressed his asking price, along with him not having this ridiculously media circus. With the teams that are in on it, I can see 5/60, and I can see the Marlins driving the market for him to insane places it should never go, and Ozzie Guillen giggling at the press conference.....and this is wear I start thinking about boring a drill into my skull to make the visions stop.

    I think we've long established in this country that the occasional and casual blurring of the lines between appreciation of athletic prowess and sexual exhilliration is acceptable within reason, so long as a knowing wink comes along with it. By my count, some 837 professional athletes were cited as having "brought sexy back" between 2006-08.

    "Sexy Thing" seems like a fine choice for initial courtship period, but that'll switch to "Heard it Through the Grapevine" as rumors of the Cespedes to the Marlins get hot and heavy, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours" when the White Sox are named as the surprise winners of the Cespedes sweepstakes, but then sadly switching back to "Walk On By" when Cespedes is awarded back to the the Marlins by Bud Selig upon revelations that Miami only retracted their bid when Kenny Williams broke into Larry Beinfest's house and put a gun in his mouth until he agreed to back off.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    So Kosuke Fukudome's 4 yr/$48mil might serve as a better baseline for a Cespedes contract?

    Speaking of Kukudome, there would seem to be parallels and lessons to draw from the Sox courtship of Fukudome 4 years ago, right? Though I'm not smart enough to recognize them. Maybe that it's futile to bid highest for a player of said nationality if another player of said nationality has already been the first player of said nationality on your baseball team. Or I suppose a naysayer could point to Fukudome and scream, "Look! There! See?! Don't buy into the hype!" But where's the fun in that?

    While it resulted in a brilliantly crafted stroll through the rest of the White Sox offseason set to music, I'm embarrassed that I mangled the name of the song to which I was referring. Surely, the whole world now knows that I am not a true Hot Chocolate fan.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    That would be Fukudome, not Kukudome, in the second sentence. I was confusing the outfielder's name with the Cuckoo Dome, which is the baseball stadium in my imagination reserved for ballplayers who are not all there like, oh, Manny Ramirez and/or twisted and evil like, say, Luke Scott. Apologies.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    Hot Chocolate has other songs!??!?!?!

    Oof, that comparison to Fukudome stings. His deal seemed to have been inflated by the success of Matsui and Ichiro. I thought of saying something about players from the Cuban having a relatively good history of being able to adjust to MLB, but that's a preposterously small sample and clearly affected by only their elites making the escape. All-contact slap-hitting is more popular in Japan, a style which I loath, but then again that wasn't Fukudome's game so much, nor was it Matsui's, and the greatest Japanese import of all-time is a slap hitter. So, I donno, it's a mystery box

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