Wednesday, November 30, 2011

All Eyes are on Yoenis Cespedes

The Tigers were one of many teams which scouted Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes in a recent showcase in the Dominican Republic.  Assistant general manager Al Avila says that a private scouting session for just the Tigers is also scheduled.  Cespedes is considered a five-tool talent and the Tigers are very intrigued, but so are many other teams, including big spenders such as the Yankees Red Sox. Phillies and Nationals.  One of the strongest suitors may be the Marlins, who would love to have a high profile Cuban playing in South Florida.

Cespedes defected from Cuba this summer and is currently living in the Dominican Republic where he is waiting to become a free agent. Major League Baseball is expected to declare him a free agent soon and the bidding should become intense.  He is expected to get a contract similar to another Cuban - Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman.  Chapman signed a six year deal worth $30 million in 2010. Based on the publicity and the teams involved, I get the sense that Chapman will get even more that, perhaps as much as $50 million.

The 26-year-old Cespedes batted .333/.424/.667 in Cuba in 2010-2011.  He and slugger Jose Abreu both hit 33 home runs to break a league record.  Since Cuba is probably comparable to low A ball in the United States, it is hard to know how that would translate into the majors.  The raw talent is unquestioned however.

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus called the 6-0 215 pound Cespedes the "best all around player to come out of Cuba in a generation".  Goldstein also wrote that Cepedes is a "legitimate center fielder" with "plus power and speed".

Cespedes is not necessarily a pure hitter, but Mark Anderson of TigsTown and Baseball Prospect Nation reports that scouts believe he will hit well enough to take advantage of his immense power.  Anderson says that he has 60-70 power on the scouting scale, which means that he has the potential to hit 25-30 homers in the majors some day.

While power may be his ticket the majors, Cespedes can do more than hit home runs.  The Cuban sensation has a rare exciting power - speed combination and some are calling him a potential 30/30 candidate.  He also has the range and arm to play any of the three outfield positions.   Of course, we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves.  He's far from a sure thing, but you can see his athleticism and raw tools on this humorous but impressive Promotional Video.

If the Tigers were able to sign Cespedes, he would likely spend some time in the minors, but he'll be getting too much money to stay there very long.  It would probably be a matter of weeks rather than months.  He would not likely unseat Austin Jackson in center fielder, but could knock him out of the lead-off spot.  I could envision Cespedes at one of the corners with Brennan Boesch in the other corner.  Current left fielder Delmon Young would almost surely be traded in that scenario.

The Tigers will have a lot of competition in the pursuit of Cepedes and chances are they  won't get him, but he's an intriguing possibility to think about as the hot stove heats up.

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