Jobu reacts to the big news out of the Dominican Republic, that a young Cuban legend has gained MLB eligibility, and ponders on where he might end up.
Who Is This Man?
If you don’t know the man in the photograph, you might want read this article very closely. He is Yoenis (previously Yoennis) Céspedes, he’s coming to the majors, and he’s an absolute beast. I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about this guy until today, so I decided to write this post partially to inform the masses, and partially to inform myself. By the end of this post, we will all be a little more educated about the man who has major league scouts salivating this off-season.
Here’s what you need to know about Yoennis. First of all, his nickname is “El Talento.” That’s spanish for… the talento. The talent! That’s how good he is. He’s 26 years old (in Cuban years, so he might actually be 32), he’s the single season home run record holder in Cuba (33 HR in 90 games in the 2010-2011 season), he can leg press 1,300 lbs (1,300!), and he plays center-field with a 37-inch vertical leap and a 6.3 second 60-yard dash time. Yikes.
It saddens me to say that the now infamous Yoenis Céspedes Showcase video has been taken off of Youtube, but I got a chance to watch it this morning before it was pulled, and let me tell you, I was impressed. Céspedes is shown hitting bombs to all fields, doing the aforementioned weight lifting exercises, running drills and even catching fly balls behind his back (not that he would ever do that in a game, but he could if he wanted). The video itself is a little bizarre, starting off with a Star Wars like scrolling marquee titled “A New Hope,” and including video of Céspedes hitting bombs to “Sailing” by Christopher Cross (kind of hilarious). The really impressive part is when the rap music kicks in and they show Yoennis’ explosive workouts. I couldn’t believe how fast and strong this guy is… and all those bombs he was hitting! It was enough to have me already trading Nick Swisher in my head.
How Good Can He Be in the Majors?
It’s hard to say how good Céspedes will actually be in the MLB. We’ve all seen how well Cuba does in international competition when Fidel lets them travel. They’re usually among the favored teams to win at international tournaments, including the World Baseball Classic, where they finished as the runners up in 2006. Although Cuba didn’t fare as well in the 2009 tournament, Céspedes made the most of his opportunity. In the six games, his slash line was .458/.480/1.000, and he had a double, 3 triples and 2 home runs mixed into his 11 hits. Granted, this was a small sample size, but those numbers are pretty impressive for anyone.
In the Cuban leagues, Céspedes was monstrous. It’s hard to find Cuban baseball statistics on line (stupid embargo… thanks JFK), but I was able to find his Wikipedia article, which helped. Céspedes has been in the Cuban league since he was 18 years old (if you believe he is currently 26), and he has only hit under .300 once (.284 in 2006-2007). He has also hit over 20 home runs five times (pretty impressive for a 90 game season), and broke the Cuban single-season record by hitting 33 bombs during the 2010-2011 season. Basically, the guy has shown elite talent in every aspect of the game. He’s a legitimate 5-tool prospect.
To me, prospect is the key word. From my research, I can tell you that most people place the Cuban league somewhere between AA-AAA in the USA, as far as the competition goes. This takes away a little from Céspedes’ statistics. He’s also 26 years old, so he’s pretty much fully matured as an athlete at this point. He’s utterly dominating, but he’s doing it against lesser competition. That being said, it’s not like he’s an average player in the Cuban league. If a player is a real superstar, they’re gonna dominate against that level of play. It doesn’t mean I think he will put up monster numbers in the MLB, but it doesn’t mean that I think he won’t. It’s really almost impossible to tell until he gets into some major league games. Many prospects dominate the minor leagues in America, but ultimately fall short in the bigs. Either way, I think he is clearly no longer challenged in Cuba. At this point, all we can really say is that there has never been such a hyped position player out of Cuba. If Céspedes can put up Kendry Morales numbers and play excellent center field defense, he’s going to be a perennial all-star at the Major League level.
Where’s He Gonna Go?
As a Yankees fan, I was very happy to hear the Brian Cashman has viewed the aforementioned showcase video (I really wish you guys could see it!). The Yankees also scheduled a private workout for Céspedes. Ideally, I would have the Yankees sign this Céspedes and start him in AAA in 2012. If, by mid-season, he shows he’s too good for AAA, I’d bring him up and trade Nick Swisher for whatever the team needs for the championship run (Swisher won’t be on the team in 2013 anyway).
Realistically, there are a lot of teams that could use a guy like Céspedes. In fact, it’s hard to find a team that couldn’t use a guy like him. Right now I’m hearing that the Yankees (yessss!), Red Sox, Blue Jays, Nationals, Athletics, Phillies and Marlins are said to be interested. The Red Sox, Phillies and Yankees could better meet the financial commitment that will be required to land Céspedes (estimates vary from $30-$60 million), but it’s not always about money.
I think the team that can’t afford to let Yoennis get away is the Florida Marlins. They are moving to a new stadium in 2012, and need to fill those seats. It’s no secret that there are a lot of Cubans in Miami. Those Cuban people love their baseball, and their Cuban baseball players. They need home town guy to cheer for. They’re holding out for a hero ’til the morning light. He’s got to be sure, and he’s got to be soon, and he’s got to be fresh from the fight. It also really wouldn’t hurt if he were Cuban (lost lyric?). The Marlins know this (just this past season they drafted Cuban born Jose Hernández, in the first round). Not only will Céspedes fill the Marlins’ cultural needs, he could also really help the Marlins on the field too. Imagine lining him up next to Mike Stanton in the outfield every day? They could potentially have two of the most exciting young players in all of baseball patrolling their outfield. Wins will fill the seats even more than Cubans in the outfield will, and Yoenis can provide the team with both.
In the end, if the Yankees don’t get him signed, I really do hope the Marlins do. Anyone but the Red Sox…
Someone put the video back up right before press time!
First Céspedes image courtesy of: The Associated Press
Second Céspedes image courtesy of: http://zonadestrike.wordpress.com
Fat Joe, DJ Laz and Pitbul image courtesy of: http://media-onthego.com/
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