Yoenis Cespedes — Fact or Fake?

The arrival of Yoenis Cespedes on the MLB scene has been like watching an episode of Sci-Fi Channel’s Paranormal Files. It’s the show that features a group of experts who investigate weird and unusual video clips to prove whether they are fact or fake. Maybe they should take a look at the Cespedes Showcase video.

The 20-minute presentation begins like the Star Wars saga and ends with a pig cooking on a stick. Yes, a pig on a stick. (Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kREZHmOR1bg) The video touts Cespedes’ seemingly superhuman strength and agility. In one scene he leg presses 1,300 pounds while two grown men sit atop the weights. Toward the end, it presents some impressive stats like a .333/.424/.667 batting line with 33 home runs and 89 RBI during 90 games in Cuba.

But the video doesn’t answer the questions many fantasy owners want to know: Is Cespedes worth a pickup in your league draft, and if so, how quickly should you take him?

Is Cespedes the real deal? Scouts who’ve seen him say he possesses five-tool talents, and the Oakland A’s have made him their highest paid player. But Oakland is a team known for gambling on long shots. Also, the fact that he will play for Oakland does not project well for his offensive numbers. The A’s weak batting lineup offers him little protection while the A’s ballpark isn’t exactly hitter friendly.

One ominous indicator on how well Cespedes may perform in Major League baseball was his recent play in the Dominican Winter League. He batted just .143 with one home run and 10 strikeouts in 35 at bats. It could be argued that the sample was limited and Cespedes was adjusting. But the Dominican Winter League is comparable to a high Double-A ball and nothing close to the adjustments he’ll be forced to make against Major League pitching.

Another strike against him — a minor one — is his age. At 26 years old, he is not some hot, young prospect. He is one year short of the average age of an MLB player. There has even been speculation that Cespedes might actually be older.

On the upside, playing for the Oakland A’s should give Cespedes everyday starts. He’ll get the opportunity to prove himself and adjust to Major League pitching.

But should you draft Cespedes?

If you’re in a standard league, he is worth a late-round flier, at best. He should not be one of your top three outfielders. The outfield position is deep and there are far better choices. If he goes undrafted in your league, keep him high on your radar and watch for hitting streaks that could indicate a potential breakout.

For dynasty league managers, Cespedes becomes a slightly better option. Fantasy Baseball Cafe  recently published a poll asking where fantasy owners would take Cespedes in a dynasty league draft. The majority of the 140 responders chose rounds nine through 16. Only five percent said they wouldn’t draft him, so keep that in mind and look to take him in the 16th round or later and only after your three outfield starters have been chosen.

In an auction format, Cespedes is worth no more than two dollars, and that’s a stretch. You certainly don’t want to get caught in a bidding war.

If your draft is late in spring training, take the opportunity to watch Cespedes closely. If his numbers are good, you should upgrade him, especially in dynasty leagues.

The recent news on Cespedes is not great. He is still waiting for visa approval and it’s not clear when the process will be complete – yet another question about the mystery man, Cespedes.