Yoenis Céspedes

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Yoenis Céspedes Milanés
(La Potencia)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 10", Weight 210 lb.

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

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Yoenis Céspedes was a star in his native Cuba, holding the country's single-season home run mark for a time before defecting after the 2011 season. He arrived in MLB with the Oakland Athletics in 2012 and became a highlight reel sensation, clubbing monster home runs as well as displaying a cannon of an arm in the outfield. A two-time Home Run Derby champ and two-time All-Star, "La Potencia" exploded into the national conversation in the second half of the 2015 season upon his arrival to the New York Mets, almost single-handedly carrying the team's offense to a National League pennant. He has battled injuries ever since.

Céspedes' mother is Estela Milanés, a softball pitcher who appeared in the 2000 Olympics for Cuba. Unlike her, Yoennis (and his half-brother, Yoelkis Céspedes) 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 Rookie of the Year but losing out to Frank Montieth. The teenaged Yoenis batted .313/.403/.540 in 2004-2005. In 2005-2006, he hit .351/.444/.649 with 23 home runs, 89 runs scored and 78 RBI in 88 games. He tied Yulieski Gourriel for the Serie Nacional lead in runs scored and was four home runs behind Gourriel for the lead, placing second. 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 a league-leading 79 runs scored in 89 games. He finished 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. Yoenis 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.

Yoenis 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 scored and 5 RBI in six games. He led Cuba in slugging and was second to Frederich Cepeda in average, OBP and OPS, tying Cepeda and Yulieski Gourriel for the team lead in runs scored and tying 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. Yoenis had Cuba's best scoring chance in their last game, a 5-0 loss to Japan, tripling off Hisashi Iwakuma, but was stranded. Earlier in the game, he dropped a fly from Michihiro Ogasawara to let the first two Japanese runs score. Cuba missed the final four of an event for the first time ever; they had made the finals of every global competition since the 1951 Amateur World Series. Céspedes batted .323/.411/.601 in 2008-2009 with 24 homers and 83 runs scored in 87 games. He tied Leonys Martín for 4th in the league in runs scored 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, making the All-Star outfield alongside Giorvis Duvergel and Despaigne. He started the 2009 Baseball World Cup as Cuba's center fielder but hit only .194/.275/.333 while being caught in his only steal attempt; Martín replaced him as the event went along. In the Gold Medal game, Yoenis pinch-hit for Yorbis Borroto and rapped a 9th-inning single off Brad Lincoln in Cuba's 10-5 loss to Team USA, settling for a Silver Medal.

Céspedes hit .345/.426/.617 in 2009-2010 with 87 runs scored and 22 homers in 87 contests. He was third in the league in runs scored (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 picked as an All-Star outfielder as Despaigne, Cepeda and Bell took the three slots. The Campachuela native was 11 for 22 with 12 runs scored, 14 RBI, 2 doubles and 4 homers in 6 games at the 2010 World University Championship. He drove in 6 against South Korea and 5 against China. In the Gold Medal game, he was 0 for 4 with a strikeout as Cuba's fifth hitter 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 scored, 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 scored, 33 home runs and 99 RBI in 90 games in 2010-2011. He led the league in runs scored (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 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 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 six teams made serious offers to Céspedes, 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 Yoenis 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 players in return for younger prospects.

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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 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 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 after only one at-bat. He was finally healthy on June 20th, and found his swing 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 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. Céspedes carried his solid bat into the postseason, going 6 for 19 with a double as the A's bowed to the Detroit Tigers in 5 games in the ALDS.

A group of members of Céspedes' 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. Still missing was his 3-year-old son, who he was working on bringing to the United States for at least a brief visit. Céspedes did not make the American League All-Star team in 2013, because he was sporting only a .225 batting average at the break. However, he was 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 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 scored and 80 RBI and an OPS+ of 105. He was 8-for-21 with a double, triple, homer, 3 runs scored and four RBI in five games in the ALDS but Oakland fell to Detroit again. His two-run homer off Max Scherzer gave Oakland all its Game 1 offense. In Game 2, he singled off Al Alburquerque in the bottom of the 9th and came home on a Stephen Vogt hit with the lone run of the game.

Céspedes had a fun night in Oakland on May 31, 2014. Against the Los Angeles Angels, he gunned down both Kole Calhoun and Chris Iannetta at the plate with two darts from left field in the top of the 2nd, then went 3-for-5 with a home run and 5 RBI in an A's 11-3 beatdown. He was not done making the Angels look foolish yet. On June 10th, now in Anaheim, he became a YouTube and highlight reel phenomenon. After bobbling a base hit by Mike Trout, Céspedes threw a ball 300 feet on the fly to home plate in rendering Howie Kendrick a dead duck; though the Angels won, 2-1, all anybody could marvel about was Céspedes' throws. A month later, he made the All-Star team for the first time, as a key component of the strongest team in the AL. He successfully defended his title as Home Run Derby champion, becoming the second player to do so after Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 and 1999. Yoenis 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 Céspedes as a trading chip at the trading deadline on July 31st. He was hitting .256 with 17 homers and 67 RBI in 101 games when he was shipped to the Boston Red Sox in return for ace Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes. He hit his first homer as a Red Sox on August 10th, connecting with 2 on and 1 out in the 8th inning against Joe Smith of the 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 RBI, for a combined batting line of .260/.361/.450 with 22 homers and his first 100-RBI season. His stay with the Red Sox was not long though. The team had a glut of outfielders heading into 2015, but was lacking on the mound. On December 11th, they swung a trade with the Detroit Tigers in which Céspedes headed to the Motor City, along with pitchers Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier, in return for innings-eater 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 acquiring Alfredo Simon in a separate trade that same day.

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Céspedes got off to an excellent start with the Tigers in 2015, hitting .300 with 8 extra base hits and 10 RBI in his first 10 games while robbing Kurt Suzuki of a home run on Opening Day. 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 RBI, but the Tigers were out of contention by the end of July, in part due to an injury to superstar Miguel Cabrera. And so, for the second straight year, Yoenis was traded on July 31st, this time to the New York Mets, in return for prospect hurlers Luis Cessa and Michael Fulmer. He made his presence felt quickly, 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, part of a 5-hit game with 5 runs scored and a stolen base to lead the Mets to a 14-9 win over the Colorado Rockies. One of the homers was a grand slam, and he finished the day with 7 RBI, while he flied out to the warning track in the 9th, 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 despite his short time with the team. He hit .287 with 17 homers and 44 RBI in 57 games for the Mets, giving him season totals of .291/.328/.542, 42 doubles, 35 homers, 101 runs scored and 105 RBI. The Mets won the division for the first time in nine years and faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series; Céspedes 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 RBI in the four-game sweep. He did not do much in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, going 3-for-20 with a run scored and an RBI as the Mets lost in five games.

In a most fortuitous coincidence, Céspedes became a free agent after the 2015 season and lined up to get PAID, his return to Queens not a foregone conclusion. It took protracted negotiations that went until January 22, 2016, when the two sides agreed on a three-year contract worth $75 million. On April 29th, he set a Mets record with 6 RBI in an inning, as the Mets scored a team-record 12 runs in the 3rd inning of a 13-1 defeat of the San Francisco Giants. The outburst came on a two-run single off Jake Peavy and a grand slam off reliever Mike Broadway. On June 30th, he tied a club record with the longest home run in Citi Field history, connecting against John Lackey for a 466-foot bomb. He returned to the All-Star Game in July, but was unable to play due to injury. On August 3rd, he was placed on the disabled list with a strained right quadriceps after spending the previous week at designated hitter in 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 love of golf. He returned to the lineup on August 19th and, after going 1-for-4 in his first game back, hit three homers over the next two games to re-assert his dominance. On August 29th, he connected off Nick Wittgren of the Marlins with two outs in the 10th inning for a walk-off blast that gave the Mets an important win over one of their main rivals for a wild card spot. He finished the season at .280/.354/.530 with 31 homers and 86 RBI in 132 games. He was 0-for-4 in the Mets' loss to the Giants in the Wild Card Game, the team's bats kept silent by postseason kingpin Madison Bumgarner. On November 5th, he announced that he was opting out of the remainder of his contract to become a free agent again. This proved to be a successful ploy,; on November 29th, he re-signed with the Mets for four years and $110 million. This gave him an average yearly salary of $27.5 million, the highest ever for a Mets position player.

On April 11, 2017, Céspedes hit three homers and a double to lead the Mets to a 14-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, a night in which Mets batters went deep seven times. He became the first player in Mets history to have two three-homer games and the first with two games of four extra-base hits. Two days later, on April 13th, he homered twice more in a game against the Miami Marlins to take the early lead in the major league home run race. He soon began to be slowed down by injuries, though, missing a number of games and, on April 27th, he was taken out of a game against the Atlanta Braves in the 6th inning with a pulled hamstring. He was placed on the disabled list the next day, an ominous development on a team that was struggling to score runs and had just lost its sixth straight game to fall into last place. After some setbacks during rehab, he was finally ready to take the field again on June 10th. He celebrated his return with a 9th-inning grand slam against Luke Jackson of the Braves, sealing a 6-1 win in the first game of a doubleheader. He hit well over the next three months, especially in August, when he hit 7 homers. On August 25th, he suffered another hamstring pull in the 1st inning of a game against the Washington Nationals while trying to score on a single by Dominic Smith. To add insult to (literal) injury, his race home was for naught, since Smith's hit had been called a dead ball for hitting an umpire, so he had to be pinch-run for after leaving the game. He had hit .292/.354/.540 with 17 homers and 42 RBI in 81 games and the Mets confirmed a few days later he was done for the season.

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In 2018, he began the season as the starting left fielder but, after a couple of good games, fell into a bad slump and finished the month of April hitting just .233 with 6 homers. He started to get hot in May, hitting .324 over his first 11 games, when he was felled by another injury, a hip flexor strain. The Mets went into a free-fall in his absence, which lasted until the All-Star break. He played a bit of first base during his rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League, given the team had received almost no offensive contribution from the position all year, and was finally reactivated on July 18th. He played only one game, going 2-for-4 with a homer in a 7-5 win over the New York Yankees on July 20th, before going back on the disabled list the rest of the year. He finished at .262/.325/.496 with 9 homers and 29 RBI in 38 games. He started the 2019 season on the injured list while recovering from surgery on both of his heels. On May 19th, he suffered a fractured ankle while recovering at his ranch in Port St. Lucie, FL in what was described as a non-baseball injury with no further details, except that it was not related to horse-riding. Only a couple of days earlier, he had joined his teammates in the dugout when the Mets played the Marlins, and he was feeling optimistic concerning his eventual return. He did not play at all that season, and the following December he agreed with the Mets on restructuring his contract, lowering his salary for the upcoming season from $29.5 million to somewhere around $19 million. This was in effect an "out-of-court settlement" of the grievance filed by the Mets over the incident in which he had broken his ankle, which was revealed to have come from an encounter with a wild boar (!!!) on his property.

Céspedes was in spring training with the Mets in 2020, but while he was working out with the team, he had still not taken part in any game action by March 10th, and nobody really knew if and when he would be ready to return. Speculation ranged all over the map, from the very optimistic - those who thought that he could be ready for Opening Day - to those saying his career was over. That talk went on pause with the rest of the world when spring training was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic and the start of the season was pushed back. That break probably gave Cespedes the time he needed to be fully healed, as he announced that he would be ready for opening day, now scheduled for July 24th, or over two years since his last appearance in a major league game. Not only did he play on opening day, but he hit a solo homer that accounted for all the runs in a 1-0 win over the Atlanta Braves. That gave him a most bizarre streak of hitting homers in three consecutive games - over a span of more than two years: on May 13, 2018; on July 20, 2018; and on July 24, 2020! His season did not last long, though, as on August 2nd, he did not show up for his team's game without giving anyone notice, and when he was finally tracked down, he said that he had decided to opt out of the season. He had hit .161 in 8 games, with 2 homers and 4 RBIs. His decision likely brought his career as a Met to an inglorious end.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Sources[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "Remember what a healthy Céspedes can do", mlb.com, July 14, 2020. [1]
  • Anthony DiComo: "Sources: Cespedes, Mets strike 4-year deal", mlb.com, November 29, 2016. [2]
  • Anthony DiComo: "Céspedes elects not to play rest of 2020", mlb.com, August 2, 2020. [3]
  • Matt Ehalt: "Mets say golf didn't cause Yoenis Cespedes to go on disabled list", USA Today Sports, August 4, 2016. [4]
  • Steve Gardner: "Yoenis Cespedes, a no-show for Mets game, decides to opt out of season", USA Today, August 2, 2020. [5]
  • Mike Lupica: "Céspedes is baseball’s biggest ‘if’ right now", mlb.com, March 10, 2020. [6]
  • Abbey Mastracco: "Mets' Yoenis Cespedes suffers ankle fractures in fall on his ranch", USA Today, May 20, 2019. [7]
  • Jorge L. Ortiz: "Yoenis Cespedes found a home in Big Apple - and Mets eager to show him love", USA Today Sports, November 29, 2016. [8]
  • Kevin Spain: "Yoenis Cespedes says he'd like to finish his career in Oakland", USA Today Sports, July 21, 2017. [9]
  • Justin Toscano: "Mets, Yoenis Cespedes reach agreement to restructure contract, lower 2020 salary", USA Today, December 13, 2019. [10]
  • Joe Trezza: "5 reasons Cespedes is drawing hot pursuit", mlb.com, November 22, 2016. [11]
  • Jesse Yomtov: "Mets legend Dwight Gooden says Yoenis Cespedes may get 'blackballed' after 2020 opt-out", USA Today, August 14, 2020. [12]

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