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« Is Matt Holliday spiraling? | Main | Top 10 Most Saves 2008-12 »

The Fantasy Baseball Diary: Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes had 23 home runs for the Athletics in 2012.

I just got home from dinner with a friend. Unless I’m on the way to a ballpark, I hardly go out for dinner. Not because of my social anxiety, which I sometimes I exaggerate to get out of having to go to events I don’t want to go to (insert evil laugh), but because I’m vegan. Most people when they hear vegan they conjure up a stereotypical archetype in their head. In most cases it’s either a hippie living near Haight and Ashbury or a young female in a Lifetime movie where the audience learns she's a vegan when she meets her boyfriend’s parents, who are meat and potatoes people, for the first time. Either way, veganism isn’t seen in a positive light.

The first question I’m always asked is some variation of “I hope you’re able to eat here” in a pandering tone. The tone of the question reminds me of intoxicated people at a bar continually asking the sober person why they’re not drinking. Since its Monday, the restaurant was relatively empty, which made my experience more enjoyable. Unless I’m talking baseball, I never know what to say after about ten minutes of conversation. But I was in luck, my friend works in the same industry I used to worked in so we talked about regression and multivariate landing page testing. Pretty interesting stuff right? Now think how much more interesting it would be if you went on a first date with me. I bet it would exceed all your expectations.

Speaking of expectations, to say Yoenis Cespedes surpassed all expectations in his rookie season is an understatement.

Compare out these two heat maps:

Player A is Cespedes and Player B is Ryan Braun.

What made his season more remarkable was his acculturation to the big leagues and to living in the United States. It’s easy to forget he didn’t speak English, had to live in place that was foreign to him and do all this without the help of his support system. The simplest things we take for granted such as ordering a pizza or going to the laundromat were tasks for him. I’m not implying Cespedes did all this on his own; he had Ariel Prieto, former Athletics pitcher from Cuba, as his mentor/interpreter for the entire season.

With only a few weeks of spring training, the Athletics decided to put the best all-around player to come out of Cuba on their final 25 man roster. Other than the jump from high-A to Double A (minor leagues), jumping to the big leagues is the hardest jump in baseball. He had to make adjustments, on the fly, from facing pitchers in the Cuban National Series to exploding breaking stuff in the big leagues. Consequently, Cespedes started off slowly, putting up a slash line of .245/.319/.434 (AVG/OBP/SLG). However, for the rest of the year he posted a slash line of .304/.366/.525. If he maintained his .525 slugging percentage for the entire year he would have ranked 12th in the league, just behind Prince Fielder.

The question for fantasy owners is he legit?

His .326 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was a little higher than average BABIP of .300, implying a regression is coming. However, his plus (above average) speed will allow for him to have a higher BABIP because he’ll be able to leg out hits.

Cespedes has the rare combination of speed and power, leading to comparisons to Bo Jackson. If you don’t know Bo, you should check out him out; he had the best tools (run, throw, hit, power, fielding) of any player I’ve ever seen. By looking at Cespedes’ cold zones it looks as though are no weaknesses in his plate coverage. He has the raw tools be a 30/30 (home run/steals) player and he's being drafted 63rd at Mock Draft Central, which is a tremendous steal. 

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