trade deadline, committed to cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes: Overrated? Maybe.

So I read a piece yesterday by Mike Petriello at ESPN regarding Yoenis Cespedes. It says exactly what I have been saying since the A’s traded Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for left-handed starter Jon Lester.

Petriello isn’t talking about the Oakland A’s midseason implosion either, which when I reference Cespedes is what I am usually talking about. It is my belief that the A’s complete meltdown had absolutely NOTHING to do with trading Cespedes.

Sure the two coincide on a timeline but if you look at the week even two before Cespedes was trade you would see that the A’s were already trending in the wrong direction.

Petriello uses the words “buyer beware” and “overrated” when talking about Cespedes. So do I and even Peter Gammons agrees.

His name has value mainly because he was one of the first of the Cuban hitters to arrive AND he signed with Oakland which no one saw coming.

You see the crazy throws from left field in the highlights or the words “back-to-back Home Run Derby Champion” and you automatically think he’s off the charts both offensively and defensively.

The truth is that when you look at the statistics and the way his stats are trending and you might be surprised. Plus, there was that nasty little rumor that the coaches of the Boston Red Sox didn’t like him because he wouldn’t take direction defensively (mainly).

When Cespedes left the A’s he was hitting just .254 and was third on the team in home runs (yes, that’s right, the back-to-back Home Run Derby Champion) was behind Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss in home runs upon departing for Boston.

Yoenis Cespedes. Michael Ivins/Getty Images.
Yoenis Cespedes. Michael Ivins/Getty Images.

In fact the back-to-back Home Run Derby Champ actually finished the season with fewer home runs than both Moss and Donaldson. So there goes his “elite power bat” reputation. Squashed just like that.

Cespedes has one hell of an arm as well as acurracy but his most highlighted throws of the season were in the same series in Anaheim against the Lost Angeles Angels. Cespedes missed the ball or dropped the ball in order to make each of those plays appear so spectacular.

As for the “leader in the clubhouse” and “clubhouse chemistry” arguments. I can’t speak to those with statisical facts, only hearsay.

Prior to his departure from Oakland I never heard a thing about him as a sort of “team leader” but after his departure the fact that he was one was all the rage. However, the Red Sox rumor casts doubt about how much of a team player Cespedes is.

As for how his stats are trending it’s not promising. Over the past three seasons, according to Petriello and Fangraphs, Cespedes is 15% better than the average MLB hitter. However, after his rookie season Cespedes has an on-base percentage of just .298 and he’s taken fewer walks with each season in the big leagues.

He’s swinging at pitches outside the strike zone more often and when he does make contact it is often on an outside pitch which limits the amount of solid contact he’s able to make. Out of his 22 home runs in 2014, 13 were classified on ESPN’s home run tracker as “just enough” to clear the fence.

To quote Petriello,

“It’s the increasing tendency toward making contact on balls out of the strike zone that somewhat colors an otherwise positive improvement in strikeout rate, since it’s difficult to strike out when you’re reaching out to make contact on balls that are best laid off of. As pitchers learn his tendencies, it’s going to be on Cespedes to prove he’s able to adjust.”

Not that I think Cespedes is a bad player. If anything, I’d say considering all the stats, that he’s a slightly above average player. Like every player he has his highs and lows, good points and bad points.

When you think of Cespedes – you should not be equating him with players like Chicago White Sox’s Cuban slugger Jose Abreu for example. Abreu is a already a great player who over the course of 2014 showed signs of improvement that can only be expected to continue until he is the new Miguel Cabrera.

Cespedes on the other hand has name value but that’s about it. He is overrated based on his perfomances the past three seasons. Don’t let the “back-to-back Home Run Derby Champ” moniker fool you.

Can he hit the ball out of the yard? Absolutely. Is a team likely to get multiple 30 home run seasons from him? Absolutely not. Gammons was right, if the Red Sox want to get a good return for Cespedes it will more than likely be in a three-team trade.

Maybe they could get a number three starter if they move fast, before too many people read posts like mine or the one that inspired it. I really do wish Cespedes all the best in his career but I’m not upset that he was traded from the A’s.

  • Jeff Bonafede

    Funny how people find fault in someone once they are on another team. Oakland made a mistake trading Cespedes and
    Josh Donaldson. If you are in a pitchers ballpark like O.Co, you need some offense. The object of baseball is to score runs.

    • Jen Rainwater

      I have no problem with Cespedes being trade because I have always thought that his numbers were quite pedestrian and if you follow baseball closely you’d know that trading him had absolutely nothing to do with the A’s collapse. I also have season tickets behing the A’s bullpen in the second row and it happens to be right there where the left fielder plays …. hmmm. Yeah, I don’t know much about Cespedes at all. I wasn’t one of the people who (literally this happened) posted on FB crying when he was traded. I was the one (and you can ask my mom since I called her immediately when I heard the news) jumping around my living room thinking possibly Lester could be the key to turning around what was then out “little slump” and take us to the World Series.

      So no I am not a bitter fan who NOW doesn’t think Cespedes isn’t that great. I think he isn’t that great because I watched him play almost every single day so I can attest to his defensive skills – his only really good year was his rookie season. He was four home runs behind Moss and six behind Donaldson when he left the A’s. You can win the Home Run Derby because you have your batting practice coach pitching to you … that contest is fun to watch but means nothing. Even with the A’s slump at the end of the season he still had fewer homers than both Moss and Donaldson. Also while I do not know his actual final batting average, I do know know that he was hitting all of .254.

      In my post I say he’s a slightly above average player. That’s the truth – he’s no superstar and the Boston Red Sox have realized that which is why he will likely be traded. His stats are trending downward and I fully support that trade. Get something for him before letting him walk after 2015.

      Oh and I am well aware of the amount of foul territory that makes O.Co a pitchers park. I’m not sure I agree that trading Donaldson now when he will be under team control or a few more years was the best move. But I trust Billy Beane. He may not have taken the A’s to the World Series but in 17 years with him at the helm we’ve been to the playoffs eight times and never had a record below 74-88. Not many teams if any can say that. So when Billy makes a move I don’t necessarily agree with I just have faith and see what happens. Trading our best player may have been a big mistake but Cespedes was not. He’s overrated and I trust Billy’s judgement 9 times out of 10 – and you never know. This Donaldson thing could turn out to be good trade. Maybe not this year but in the future.

      You write to me as though I know nothing about the A’s sir. I assure you you are mistaken – or blind. I’m not sure. Have a good day.

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