Rapid React: Yoenis Cespedes hits the Big Apple

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Detroit Tigers' Yoenis Cespedes follows through on a single against the Baltimore Orioles in the first inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 30, 2015, in Baltimore.(AP Photo/Gail Burton)
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I had a lot of pointed things to say about Yoenis Cespedes in the preseason. I called him overrated, a sucker play. I ranked him lower than just about anyone. 

Thus far, Team Cespedes is having the last laugh, an extended last laugh. He’s currently the No. 10 outfielder in Yahoo 5x5 value, enjoying a strong .293-62-18-61-3 season. So long as you didn’t pay a ridiculous price in March, this has been a fun profit season for you. 

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And maybe it’s time to lock in those profits for good, move along. With Cespedes traded to the Mets shortly before the final bell of the Friday non-waiver deadline (Detroit scores pitching prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa, Fulmer the notable addition), you might have the right window you’re looking for. Yes, amigos, I’m doubling down on my Cespedes fade.

Everyone knows that NL baseball is shaded by the lack of a designated hitter, while AL baseball enjoys the DH and a freer scoring environment. The average AL club slugs .405 and has 432 runs for the year; in the NL, it drops to .391 and 404. 

Cespedes isn’t just going to any offense of course, he’s going to the Mets  the lowest-scoring club in baseball entering Friday’s action. He’s not going to get a lot of help here. 

The Tigers stood fifth on the runs leaderboard as the deadline hit, and not even the Miguel Cabrera injury has stopped this group. Detroit ranks second in July scoring, a remarkable number given the circumstances. The reason the team fell out of contention  and downshifted into sell mode  was its sorry pitching staff (second-worst ERA for July). 

While batting-order protection is generally overrated with respect to seeing good pitches to hit, the depth of a team’s lineup absolutely matters when it comes to insulating a player’s run-producing potential. You need players to drive in, and you need players to drive you in. The Mets are 29th in OBP and 29th in slugging, so good luck with that, Cespedes. 

My general Cespedes takeaway is based on the psychology of fantasy stats. Specialists in a few categories are often overrated, especially if they happen to do well in the power cats. Across-the-board production is often underrated. And when a player is a spectacle like Cespedes is, a highlight-friendly player (long homers, power arm, two Home Run Derby wins, etc), I expect the general roto public to perhaps overrate him. 

Four teams, two years
Four teams, two years

I obviously don’t know your league context or the other owners you’re playing against. But with Cespedes prominent in Friday’s news and going to a big-city team, perhaps you can leverage against that buzz. His 2015 numbers are easy to package. Perhaps you could land Hunter Pence and another useful player for Cespedes? Could you grab Gerardo Parra (hello, Baltimore) and a second player of note? I’m just spitballing here  feel free to suggest more specific ideas in the comments, if you care to.

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Although Cespedes has a pretty .293 average thus far, that’s partially driven by a surprising .331 BABIP; keep in mind his career average is .269. Sure, his hard-hit stats look better than usual, but it’s not like he’s improved his plate discipline (walks slightly down, strikeouts nudged up). He’s not a major factor on the bases, he’s headed to a new league where pitching is generally stronger, he’s now surrounded by a mediocre offense. I don’t expect him to be one of the Top 20 outfielders the rest of the way, though I’m confident he’ll be valued as such in most fantasy leagues. 

And to anyone who thinks I’m merely being stubborn here, you’re missing the point. Like you, I just want the numbers – I don’t care what players they come from. When you look at my Shuffle Up series, you’ll usually find a pundit who’s always trying to aggressively figure out the new season before the other guys do. I never work off old lists with my ranking assignments; I start from scratch, look at the present and look ahead. I’m perfectly comfortable making aggressive changes when they make sense.

Your move, Cespedes Nation. What do you expect the rest of the way? Here’s my projection to get you started: .266-24-8-26-1.

Fantasy Baseball 24-7; follow Pianow on Twitter: @Scott_Pianowski