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.