Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes
_ Heading into the winter meetings this year, there were high hopes that the Tigers would come away with an additional bat for an already solid lineup.  The bullpen was solidified with the acquisition of Octavio Dotel as a free agent.  Alex Avila was also pleased to learn that Gerald Laird was signed, assuring that the all star catcher won’t be running on fumes in September and October.  But, that extra bat did not materialized.  Yet.

The speculation surrounding the eventual destination of Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes has been swirling for months.  Most scouts agree that Cespedes is a five tool dynamo that will probably have an immediate impact in the big leagues.  Cespedes has been described as “boasting tremendous power,” and a “powerful throwing arm.”  Yet, because of the level of competition he has faced, it is difficult to project where he would eventually fit in the major league landscape.

Two of the more recent Cuban players to make the transition to the major leagues with strong success offer a contrast.   Kendrys Morales and Alexei Ramirez have become big league stars, but have followed different paths in the United States.    Morales was on his way to producing huge numbers before breaking his leg in a bizarre accident during a home plate celebration.  He arrived in the U.S. in his early 20’s and had over 1200 minor league at bats before taking off at the major league level.

Ramirez meanwhile joined the White Sox at age 26 without a minor league stay.  He hit .290 with 21 home runs his first year in Chicago.  Cespedes is also 26, so it is assumed that he would be more big league ready than Morales was.

Other Cuban position players to appear in the major leagues in recent years include Yunel Escobar, Brayan Pena and Dayan Viciedo.  None have had the hype of Cespedes.

To evaluate Cespedes, we could look at his World Baseball Classic numbers as a decent indicator against international competition.  In 2009 for Cuba in the WBC he was 11-24 (.458) with 2 homers and five RBI’s in six games.  But that’s hardly a large sample and only two of those games were against a strong team, the eventual champion Japan.  It is difficult to form an opinion based on competition.   That’s why most evaluations to this point have been based on his physical skill.

So, do the Tigers have a legitimate shot at landing Cespedes?  Many scouts feel that the Tigers are definitely in the mix and have been rumored to have as good of a shot as any club scouting him.  His physical tools would certainly fit nicely in the expansive outfield of Comerica Park.  That is if his pockets are not weighed down by the bucket loads of cash it will take to get him signed.  Estimates of up to $50MM to sign him have been floated.  Apparently the Tigers haven’t blinked.  Dave Dombrowski has seen him play and the Tigers have certainly done their due diligence.

So while we wait for the paperwork making Cespedes an international free agent to be finalized, check out his showcase video.  Unorthodox to say the least.  




12/15/2011 10:25

First, saying that the Tigers lineup is solid is blatant homerism. Leave that to your broadcast partner. The lineup is far from solid as there are still way too many holes, Avila and Peralta will probably not match 2011, which leaves Cabrera and Martinez. The Tigers have two solid spots. The rest is "iffy" and "terrible" and a guy who had over 200 k's last year (including the playoffs) is still penciled into the leadoff spot. You choose who is who.

Secondly, this line: "But, that extra bat did not materialized. ". C'mon really? Don't give those scUM fans any more ammo about MSU man!

Mario Impemba
12/15/2011 10:48

The Tigers were fourth in the league in average, third in runs scored, third in hits and third in OB%. Solid.

12/15/2011 11:47

Indeed. "Were" is the operative word in this. It would be a pipe dream to expect both Peralta and Avila to perform at 2010 standards. There are still huge holes at 3b, 2b, and all but one of the outfield positions. Essentially the only two positions that can be penciled in as dominant are going to be 1b and Dh.

If somehow the Tigers leadoff swinger (notice I don't call him a hitter) figures something out, they find a decent corner OF to match or exceed Boesch, and either one of Avila or Peralta comes close to 2010, pragmatically they're positioned to be solid. If they enter the season as they stand now, they're going to be looking up at Cleveland and fighting with a very good KC team.

That's a lot of "ifs". Thanks for the reply!

Mario Impemba
12/15/2011 13:54

Solid points Biff. Aren't all predictions mostly based on past performance though? Actually, if you look at Peralta's average numbers per season, last year was pretty much in line in terms of run production. We just disagree. Thanks for visiting the site.

12/16/2011 05:31

Past performance is probably 80% of what makes up projections and the statheads love using the encumbering projection stats to determine future performance. Fortunately I don't!

Peralta had a very nice (and unexpected) 2011. At 30, he's not old for a SS, but with three down years sandwiched between good years at 25 and 29, history is on the side of a regression. I hope that I am proven wrong but one can't really build a baseball team on "hope". At the risk of being blunt, a lot hinges on if fat Jhonny or skinny Jhonny shows up in Florida.

The Laird acquisition could work out very well in Avila's favor. We may very well see him come close to repeating 2011. One would assume that the rapid decline toward the end of the season was due to fatigue.

The big concerns, obviously, are Inge's rapidly declining defensive skills which were once an excuse to keep him in the lineup. That ship has sailed. Platooning him with Donnie Kelly is an ugly proposition but unless a miracle happens, we'll all be plugging our noses in 2012.

Piggybacking on this is Leyland's stubborn adhering to the antiquated philosophy that the CF and 2b must be at the top of the order. The Tigers won despite that foolishness.

So, yes, we'll agree to disagree on what constitutes "solid".

Back to your article, I'm hanging my hat on Yoenis being a Tiger in 2012. There's way too much Tigers buzz for this to not happen IMO. Let's cross our fingers!

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