From BR Bullpen
Yoenis Céspedes Milanés
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 210 lb.
 Biographical Information
Yoenis Céspedes was one of the brighter young talents on the Cuban baseball scene and attracted huge attention when he defected after the 2011 season. He briefly held Cuba's single-season home run mark. He signed with the Oakland Athletics. His first name is also sometimes spelled "Yoennis", "Yohenis" or "Yohennis".
Céspedes' mother is Estela Milanés, a softball pitcher who appeared in the 2000 Olympics for Cuba. Unlike her, Yoennis has made his mark as a hitter. He broke in with the 2003-2004 Serie Nacional for Granma, hitting .302/.382/.503 and garnering consideration for the Rookie of the Year Award but losing out to Frank Montieth.
The teenaged flyhawk batted .313/.403/.540 in 2004-2005. In 2005-2006, he hit .351/.444/.649 with 23 home runs, 89 runs and 78 RBI in 88 games. He tied Yulieski Gourriel for the Serie Nacional lead in runs and was four home runs behind Gourriel for the lead, placing second in the circuit. He tied for 7th in doubles (24), was second in total bases (220, 6 behind Gourriel) and was 4th in slugging. He hit .481/.481/.741 for Cuba in the 2006 Haarlem Baseball Week as their #2 threat after Yoandry Urgellés.
Céspedes produced at a .303/.402/.541 rate in 2006-2007 with 17 home runs and 79 runs in 89 games. He again led in runs. He also was 5th in doubles (24), tied Yosvani Peraza for third in home runs, was 4th in total bases (184), tied Alfredo Despaigne for 4th in RBI, tied for 4th in steals (15) and was 6th in slugging. He was 1 for 7 with a steal and a run in the 2007 Pan American Games in his debut for the Cuban "A" national team.
Céspedes hit .284/.342/.552 in 2007-2008. He was among the league leaders in RBI (tying teammate Despaigne for third with 78), tied Urgellés for 4th in runs (82), was second in home runs (26, trailing only Alexei Bell) and was 4th in 202 total bases. Due to his lower average, he failed to make the top 10 in slugging.
Céspedes was Cuba's starting center fielder in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He hit .458/.480/1.000 with a double, 3 triples, 2 home runs, 5 runs and 5 RBI in six games. He led Cuba in slugging and was second to Frederich Cepeda in average, OBP and OPS. He tied Cepeda and Yulieski Gourriel for the team lead in runs and tied Gourriel for second in homers, behind Cepeda. He broke a 1-1 tie against Australia with a 6th-inning solo homer off Damian Moss and started a 16-4 romp over Mexico with a leadoff triple against Pablo Ortega. Yoennis got Cuba's best scoring chance in their last game, a 5-0 loss to Japan, tripling off Hisashi Iwakuma but getting stranded. Earlier in that game, he dropped a fly from Michihiro Ogasawara to let the first two Japanese runs score. Cuba thus missed the final four of an event for the first time ever; they had also made the finals of every global baseball competition since the 1951 Amateur World Series.
Céspedes batted .323/.411/.601 in 2008-2009 with 24 homers and 83 runs in 87 games. He tied Leonys Martín for 4th in the league in runs and tied Rolando Meriño for third in home runs (trailing Alfredo Despaigne and Joan Carlos Pedroso). He was 7th in total bases (197), 9th in RBI (76) and 10th in slugging. He made the All-Star outfield alongside Giorvis Duvergel and Despaigne.
He started the 2009 Baseball World Cup as Cuba's starting center fielder but struggled and only hit .194/.275/.333 while being caught in his only steal attempt; Martín replaced him as the event went along. In the Gold Medal game, Yoennis pinch-hit for Yorbis Borroto and got a 9th-inning single off Brad Lincoln in Cuba's 10-5 loss to Team USA as they settled for a Silver Medal.
Céspedes hit .345/.426/.617 in 2009-2010 with 87 runs and 22 homers in 87 contests. He was third in the league in runs (3 behind leader Yulieski Gourriel), 10th in hits (118), 8th in home runs, 4th in total bases (211, behind Alfredo Despaigne, Gourriel and José Dariel Abreu) and was 9th in slugging. He was not pick as an All-Star outfielder as Despaigne, Cepeda and Bell took the three slots.
The Campachuela native was 11 for 22 with 12 runs, 14 RBI, 2 doubles and four homers in six games at the 2010 World University Championship. He drove in six against South Korea and five against China. In the Gold Medal game, he was 0 for 4 with a strikeout as Cuba's #5 batter in a 4-3 win over Team USA. He made the tournament All-Star outfield alongside Mikie Mahtook and Shota Ishimine. He played for Cuba when they finished second in the 2010 Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament. In the 2010 Intercontinental Cup, he was 3 for 10 with a double, 3 runs, 4 RBI and a walk as a backup. In the 4-1 win over the Dutch national team in the Gold Medal game, he was the second of three left fielders Cuba used. He replaced Yoandry Urgellés, was retired by Berry van Driel, then was replaced by Despaigne.
Yoenis put up a .333/.424/.667 batting line with 89 runs, 33 home runs and 99 RBI in 90 games in 2010-2011. He led the league in runs (five ahead of Cepeda), tied Abreu for the home run lead (breaking Despaigne's league record by one; Despaigne would reclaim the record in 2011-2012), tied Cepeda for the most total bases (236), tied Ramon Tamayo for 7th in steals (11 in 14 tries), led in RBI (6 ahead of Abreu) and finished 5th in slugging. He was named the All-Star center fielder, joining Despaigne and Cepeda in the outfield. Just ahead of the 2011-2012 season, he defected from Cuba, landing in the Dominican Republic and hiring Adam Katz as an agent. As a result, he instantly became one of the top free agents available to major league teams that off-season. In early January of 2012, he was given permission to play in the Dominican League and immediately joined the Aguilas Cibaenas. When his residency papers in the Dominican Republic were secured on January 24th, Major League Baseball advised teams that he was now eligible to be signed as a free agent. At least 6 teams made serious offers to Cespedes, but it was an outsider, the Oakland A's who emerged as winners of the sweepstakes on February 13th, offering $36 million over four years. It was the largest contract ever for a Cuban defector, and immediately made Yoennis the team's highest-paid player. The deal was particularly surprising given the A's had been shedding payroll all winter, trading a number of established young players in return for younger prospects.
Yoenis was the first player to make his debut in the majors in 2012 as the A's played a two-game opening series against the Seattle Mariners at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan. He started both games in center field and in the second of these hit a two-run homer off Shawn Kelley on March 29th for his first major league homer. He was not at all overwhelmed by the transition to the USA, as after his first 12 games, he had already collected 12 RBI. After 28 games, he was hitting .245 with 5 doubles, 5 homers and 21 RBI, when he was placed on the disabled list on May 12th with a strained left hand. He returned to action on June 1st, picking up 3 doubles, a triple and a homer in his first 6 games before pulling up lame with a pulled hamstring while running the bases on June 7th. That sidelined him for another couple of weeks, during which he made one start in left field on June 13th, but was removed from the game after only one at-bat. He was finally healthy on June 20th, and found his swing back quickly. He went 2-for-4 with a double in his first start as a DH, then hit a walk-off three-run homer off the Los Angeles Dodgers' Josh Lindblom in the 9th inning the next day. He finished the season strong, being named the American League's Rookie of the Month for September, when he batted .257, but with 5 doubles, 7 homers, 19 RBI and 18 runs scored. During that month, the Athletics caught and passed the Texas Rangers to win a completely unexpected AL West title. He finished the year with a batting line of .292/.356/.505 in 129 games, with 25 doubles, 23 homers and 82 RBI; he finished a distant second to Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who won the AL Rookie of the Year Award by unanimous vote, but that was solely a function of Trout's superlative season. Cespedes carried his solid bat into the postseason, going 6 for 19 with a double as the A's bowed out to the Detroit Tigers in 5 games in the ALDS.
A group of members of Cespedes' family, consisting of 11 persons, defected en masse from Cuba in the fall of 2012, first landing in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and later in the Dominican Republic before finally being admitted in the United States the following March. Among the group was Yoenis' mother, Estela Milanes. However, still missing was his 3-year-old son, which he was working on bringing to the United States for at least a brief visit. Cespedes did not make the American League All-Star team in 2013, because he was sporting only a .225 batting average at the break. He was however selected to represent the circuit in the Home Run Derby at Citi Field and put on a tremendous performance, blasting 17 home runs during the first round - more than any of his competitors hit over the first two rounds - and then needing only 5 of his 9 outs to out-homer Bryce Harper, 9-8, in the final round. He impressed by hitting balls out to all fields, many of them line drives. After winning the competition, he commented: "This stadium may be very difficult but it's not as difficult as Oakland and if I can do it in Oakland I thought, why couldn't I do it here?" He finished the season with a .240/.294/.442 batting line, 26 homers, 74 runs and 80 RBI, his OPS+ down to 105, not what one expects from a corner outfielder. He was 8 for 21 with a double, triple, homer, 3 runs and four RBI in five games in the 2013 ALDS2 but Oakland fell to Detroit. His 2-run homer off Max Scherzer gave Oakland all its game one offense. In Game 2, he singled off Al Albuquerque in the bottom of the 9th and came home on a Stephen Vogt hit with the lone run of the game.
Cespedes made the All-Star team for the first time in 2014, thanks to a solid first half for the strongest team in the AL. He successfully defended his title as Home Run Derby champion, becoming the second player to do so since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 and 1999. he hit 28 homers on the night, and crushed Todd Frazier, 9 long balls to 1, in the final round. In a surprise move, the A's decided to use Cespedes as a trading chip at the trading deadline on July 31st. He was hitting .256 with 17 homers and 67 RBIs in 101 games when he was shipped to the Boston Red Sox in return for P Jon Lester and OF Jonny Gomes. He hit his first homer as a member of the Red Sox on August 10th, connecting with 2 on and 1 out in the 8th inning against Joe Smith of the Los Angeles Angels to account for all of his team's offense in a 3-1 win. He played regularly for the Red Sox the rest of the way, getting into 51 games, during which he hit .269 with 5 homers and 33 RBIs, for a combined batting line of .260/.361/.450, with 22 homers and 100 RBIs, getting into the three figures in that statistic for the first time. His stay with the Red Sox was not long however. The team had a surplus of outfielders heading into 2015, but was lacking on the mound. On December 11th, they swung a trade with the Detroit Tigers ion which Cespedes headed to the Motor City, along with Ps Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier, in return for P Rick Porcello. It was a rare trade in this day and age, with two established players being traded mainly for baseball considerations: the Tigers needed to fill a hole in the outfield following the departure of Torii Hunter via free agency, and were willing to give up a quality starter to do so, estimating that they still had a strong starting rotation after having acquired Alfredo Simon in a separate trade that same day.
Cespedes got off to an excellent start with the Tigers in 2015, hitting .300 with 8 extra base hits and 10 RBIs in his first 10 games. On April 19th, he connected for the first grand slam of his career off Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox in a 9-1 win. In 102 games for Detroit, he hit a solid .293 with 28 doubles, 18 homers and 61 RBIs, but the Tigers were out of contention by the end of July, in part due to an injury to superstar Miguel Cabrera. Thus, for the second straight year, Yoenis was traded on July 31st, this time to the New York Mets, in return for prospects Luis Cessa and Michael Fulmer. He made his presence in the lineup quickly felt, as on August 3rd he hit three doubles in a 12-1 rout of the Miami Marlins that put the Mets in first place in the NL East; the three doubles tied a team record. He had another great game on August 21st as he homered three times and had 5 hits and scored 5 runs to lead the Mets to a 14-9 win over the Colorado Rockies. One of the homers was a grand slam he had 7 RBIs, and also stole a base while he flied out to the warning track in the 9th inning, falling just short of tying the major league record of four homers in one game. His batting heroics propelled the Mets forward, leaving the second-place Washington Nationals far in their dust. In September, he had a stretch in which he homered 9 times in 13 days as fans began to speak of him as a potential MVP candidate in spite of his short time with the team. He hit .287 with 17 homers and 44 RBIs in 57 games for the Mets, giving him season totals of .291, 42 doubles, 35 homers, 101 runs and 105 RBIs. The Mets won their division and faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series; he went 5 for 20 with 2 home runs to help propel the team to the NLCS. There, facing the Chicago Cubs, he was 4 for 14 with 3 RBIs in the four-game sweep. However, he did not do much in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, going 3 for 20 with a run and an RBI as the Mets lost in five games.
Cespedes became a free agent after the 2015 season and his return to the Big Apple was far from a a foregone conclusion. It took protracted negotiations that went on until January 22, 2016 until the two sides agreed on a three-year contract worth $75 million. On April 29th, he set a Mets record with 6 RBIs in an inning, as the Mets scored a team-record 12 runs in the 3rd inning in a 13-1 defeat of the San Francisco Giants. The runs come on a two-run single off Jake Peavy and a grand slam off reliever Mike Broadway. He returned to the All-Star Game in July. On [August 3]]rd, he was placed on the disabled list with a strained right quadriceps after spending the previous week as the Mets' designated hitter during a series of interleague games. Of course, this being New York, there had to be a media controversy around the injury, with some reporters claiming that it was caused by Yoenis's overfondness for golf.
 Notable Achievements
- 2012 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
- 2-time All-Star (2014 & 2016)
- AL Gold Glove Winner (2015/LF)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 4 (2012-2015)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2015)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 2 (2014 & 2015)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (2015)
- Japanese Wikipedia
- 2009 Baseball World Cup
- 2010 Intercontinental Cup
- 2010 World University Championship
 Further Reading
- Matt Ehalt: "Mets say golf didn't cause Yoenis Cespedes to go on disabled list", USA Today Sports, August 4, 2016.