Red Sox add power, defense with addition of Yoenis Cespedes

July 31, 2014 - 8:21 am

While parting ways with ace Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes was no easy move for the Red Sox, the addition of power-hitting outfielder Yoenis Cespedes should soften the blow. Even though the 28-year-old slugger has only played in the majors for 2 1/2 seasons after defecting from his home county of Cuba in the summer of 2011, he has already established himself as one of the most intriguing and energizing players in the American League. "This game'€™s won and lost on pitching, we all know that. But this guy is  not going to shy away from putting some points on the board by any means. This guy'€™s a heck of an athlete and a heck of a game-changer you guys are getting back," Gomes, who played with Cespedes in 2012, said in an appearance on Middays with MFB shortly after news of the trade broke. "The Executive of the Year, Ben Cherington, I'€™m sure did his homework on him. And I can vouch for him, this guy can hit.'€ Considered to be one of the hyped Cuban prospects of the past decade along with players such as the White Sox'€™ Jose Abreu and the Dodgers'€™ Yasiel Puig, Cespedes signed a four-year, $36 million contract with the Athletics on Feb. 13, 2012. The arrival of Cespedes in the United States was an event that most scouts had anticipated for years, as young outfielder was viewed as a potential five-tool player. His hype was only further generated by an impressive workout video that spread like wildfire during the 2011 offseason. "Everyone's under the impression that this video is what's hyped him," one international scouting director told Baseball America in 2011. "That all of a sudden he's a cult hero because of his video. That is crazy. For those of us who've done our jobs, who've seen this guy for years, this guy is no video surprise. This guy's been known forever. The perception I'm reading out there is that he's a new video cult hero. Everyone's been waiting for this guy to come out for years." Cespedes made his presence felt during his first season in Oakland, finishing second behind Mike Trout in the AL Rookie of the Year voting after posting a .292/.356/.505 line while finishing second amongst major league rookies in RBIs (82) and OPS (.861) while ranking third in home runs (23). During his tenure in the Bay Area, Cespedes established himself as a reliable power hitter, blasting at least 23 home runs during his first two full seasons and has already recorded 17 dingers this year. He has also won the last two All-Star  Home Run Derby contests, becoming the first batter since Ken Griffey Jr. (1998-99) to accomplish the feat.

"I'm somebody who's very conscious of the power that I have," Cespedes said after this month's event. "So I don't need to put more of a swing or more of an effort in order to hit a home run. I just have to look for a good pitch and put a good swing on it, and it usually takes care of it."

While Cespedes is know for his power, he is no slouch in the outfield, as he posses on of the strongest arms in baseball, perhaps best put on display June 11, when the outfielder threw a perfect strike from over 300 feet away from home plate to nail Angels baserunner Howie Kendrick at the plate. "You don't expect something like that," A's manager Bob Melvin said after the game. There aren't that many guys able to throw it that far on the fly." Cespedes is tied for first, along with new teammate Jackie Bradley Jr., in the AL in outfield assists with 12. Boston now boasts two of the top 11 outfielders in baseball in terms of defensive runs saved with Bradley (+14) and Cespedes (+9). Cespedes, who can opt into free agency after next season, is set to make $10.5 million in 2015.