Yoenis Cespedes: While Cuba Misses Their Star in the 2013 WBC – the A’s Slugger Looks to be an A.L. MVP Candidate
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Friday March 8th, 2013
Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist, Oakland A’s Correspondent and Website Founder): Follow @Jhacohen
It’s pretty ironic if you ask me. The 2013 World Baseball Classic is here and Cuba is off to a huge start. I had to pick a winner and went with Cuba as my pre-tournament favorite. Considering that Japan has won both editions of the WBC, Cuba was definitely going to be in tough. To top it all off, they are starting off the first two rounds in Japan. Why is it ironic? For Cuba is missing its biggest star for the tournament. Yoenis Cespedes, the Oakland A’s star outfielder is in Arizona for Spring Training.
Far away from the bright lights of Japan, where Cuba finally beat its nemesis this week in WBC play after several failed attempts in the past. With that monkey off their back, Cuba has made the statement that they are ready to win it all. But yet without their biggest star. For when one defects from Cuba, they are forever banished from representing their country again in any baseball capacity.
I couldn’t help but think watching Cuba play in Japan this week that in fact Cespedes and the A’s opened their season last year in Japan. Cespedes actually started off his season with a bang out there and never looked back. On March 29th last year, Cespedes had a home run in the 2nd game of the A’s young season. That bomb in Japan was the start of the legend. Who knew that Cespedes would actually be in Japan a year too early? For all the success that Cuba has enjoyed thus far in the 2013 WBC, imagine if they had Cespedes anchoring that lineup?
Cuba may very still win the 2013 WBC. My money is on that happening. But if Cuba falls short yet again, the what if scenarios will endlessly get bounced around. What if the team had Aroldis Chapman? Alexei Ramirez? And most of all, Yoenis Cespedes? Until Cuba allows its defectors to come home again, the talent drain will continue to affect the country in international tournaments.
Yoenis Cespedes 2012 Highlights Mature Lyrics so Parental Guidance is Advised:
That being said, Cuba’s WBC loss is certainly Oakland’s gain. Cespedes went from internet video mystery to bona fide MLB superstar overnight last year. With Cespedes carrying the team last season and the rest of the A’s squad coming together at the right time, Oakland made a giant splash. Not only did they make the playoffs, they won the division! But with the victory should come strong expectations for 2013. Yet many experts are looking for the A’s to regress this season.
The Angels are stronger than ever, led by free agent acquisition Josh Hamilton and the highly touted Mike Trout. Texas is Texas. Seattle should be much better. The A’s are seemingly left out in the cold.
But when there is a Cespedes, there is a way. Not only will the A’s ride Cespedes into the 2013 playoffs, but their Cuban star should be a strong contender for the A.L. MVP award this year. Remember folks: you heard it here first.
Interested in more baseball irony? The A’s are defending A.L. West champions, yet the reality is that the Angels and Rangers will face the higher pressure levels in 2013. Those teams have the monster payrolls and superstars. They must win now. For those teams, it is literally World Series or bust. Many saw the A’s as likely to battle the Mariners for the A.L. West basement last year.
Nobody saw the A’s playoff run coming. Now the A’s won’t be able to take anyone by surprise again, but they are still not considered part of the baseball elite. That’s just the way Billy Beane and company like it. The same goes for the players. Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout will receive much of the pressure this season.
They are the big names, the big contracts and the future superstar. All the eyes of the baseball world will mostly be cast on those three. In the preseason, the only MVP talk I have heard for the American League has been Trout and Miguel Cabrera. Maybe Hamilton will also deliver a huge year to get back at the Rangers. But where is the Cespedes talk? If Cespedes hits a home run in the Oakland forest, does the baseball world hear it? They might give it a glance, but that’s about it.
Even on his own team, Cespedes was somewhat overshadowed by Josh Reddick. The A’s Gold Glove Outfielder has the charisma that the media loves. He has the long hair and beard, plus enjoys wearing a WWE Championship belt. How many baseball players do you know that love wrestling to that level? Cespedes is far more low key. All he does is get hit after hit, bomb after bomb.
In my mind, if Cespedes had made his major league debut for the Yankees or Red Sox, we would be talking about the Cuban Babe Ruth. Imagine the odds that this man had to overcome. Defected from Cuba. Away from baseball for some time. Started off Spring Training with no guarantee to even make the Opening Day roster.
He ended the year as one of the brightest stars in the game. To get acclimated that quickly to the North America way of life and baseball is pretty remarkable. Not only do I not see Cespedes regressing this year, I even see him taking his game to another level. The kid is that damn good.
I took a quick glance at the Spring Training statistics just now. Yes, I know- they mean absolutely nothing. And I hate myself for even peeking. But I just had to do it. Reddick is on fire. So is one of the A’s top prospects in Michael Choice. Cespedes has started off slowly. That doesn’t change my opinion. I actually prefer that players take it slow in Spring Training. Let’s see the numbers when it actually counts. Sure, its nice to have a good spring. But never read too much into March numbers. They are meaningless.
OK…so I had to check out one number. Walks. Who is the A’s team leader in Walks so far this spring? Cespedes with 5. He has more Walks than Strikeouts (4). Power and patience is the name of the game when it comes to hitting. We know that Cespedes can make consistent contact and drive the ball to the moon. That part of his game is there. Now he just has to learn to take the occasional walk.
If that part of his game comes together, he could literally be unstoppable. We could be looking at a .400+ OBP every year. He may not have Trout’s speed and defense. But head-to-head, bat-to-bat- Cespedes could hold his own. You may not hear that often in the media, but that is more of a product of hype than anything else. For when a hitter plays in the worst ballpark in baseball with the lowest attendance in the West Coast, they tend to be forgotten. Just a darn shame in my mind.
If you love baseball, make sure you do a couple of things in 2013. Firstly, try to catch a few Oakland A’s games. If you are on the East Coast, yes- that means staying up past midnight. If the A’s visit your town, grab a ticket to watch a game. Yoenis Cespedes is worth the price of admission alone. You may not hear his name spoken in the same breath as all of the baseball greats, but you very likely will someday.
Secondly, click on our WBC page and follow the WBC schedule. Follow the countries and players that you may have never seen before. There is so much baseball talent in our globe that it is simply mind-boggling. Especially Cuba. The country that loses so much of its great talent to defection, yet never stops churning out future baseball stars. Watch the future Yoenis Cespedeses playing right now for Cuba in the WBC. Then in 2-3 years, you could be sitting at a park and talking about when you saw the players on the field when they were in the WBC. Think of it as baseball scouting at its finest.
(***The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com***)
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Posted on March 8, 2013, in MLB Player Profiles, World Baseball Classic and tagged 2013 WBC, @jhacohen, @Jhacohen on twitter, alexei ramirez, aroldis chapman, babe ruth, baseball, billy beane, bryce harper, chris carter, cuba, derek norris, japan, jonathan hacohen, josh hamilton, josh reddick, King, michael choice, mickey mantle, Mike Trout, milb, oakland, oakland a's, oakland athletics, outfielder, rookie, seattle mariners, wbc, world baseball classic, world series, yoenis cespedes. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.