If fun were the only stat category in Fantasy Baseball, Yoenis Cespedes would be a lottery pick every season. The guy owns the Home Run Derby. The guy throws out baserunners from ridiculous platforms. The guy takes every swing like it’s his last.
The enjoyment index is off the charts. And it’s turned Cespedes into one of the sucker fantasy plays for 2015.
Just so you don’t think I’m playing a straw man here, let’s establish that some pundits really like Cespedes. Here’s one scribe who considers Cespedes a Top 4 outfielder. Here’s a respected writer (and a friend of mine) who considers Cespedes underrated in the Yahoo game ranks (that's a useful piece, you should definitely read it). On the rank aggregator Fantasy Pros, you'll find 15 different sources who consider Cespedes a Top 15 outfielder for the coming year (no one from Yahoo, of course).
I don’t see what they’re seeing. I have no problem ranking at least 30 outfielders higher than Mr. Home Run Derby.
Oh, I understand that Cespedes has brought plenty of pop in his three-year career (71 homers, 262 RBIs), and he’s no longer held down by Oakland’s roomy park (though his Oakland OPS is 53 points higher than his career OPS). The Tigers have plenty of big bats in their lineup, so it’s encouraging, in theory, to see Cespedes moving to his new address.
That said, be aware that Cespedes is projected to bat sixth in the Detroit lineup. Assuming this sticks, he’ll have plenty of chances to drive in the better Tigers, but they won’t be pushing him around the bases. Every indication from Lakeland says J.D. Martinez will slot fifth this year, Cespedes sixth. Detroit’s Top Six looks rather formidable, but then it skids into Alex Avila, Nick Castellanos, and Jose Iglesias.
Cespedes seems like a reasonable bet for about 25 homers and 90-100 RBIs, valuable commodities – especially given the current state of pop in the majors. But what else does he offer you?
His career slash is a modest .263/.316/.464 – he shouldn’t help you in batting average, and he won’t get on base much. And over the last two years, AL pitchers seem to have adjusted to Cespedes. Taking out his rookie year, he’s a .251 hitter and a .298 OBP guy. This looks like a player with tapped-out upside (can you find me any evidence of improvement?) and a fair amount of downside. Panic in Detroit.
I’m reluctant to bet on the steals. Cespedes swiped 16 as a rookie, but since then he's collected just 14 – on 23 attempts. If that success ratio continues, the Tigers might as well give him the red light for good.
Look, I get it – we have to lower our expectations in the current run-depressed version of baseball. But there's no way I’m spending a Top-20 outfielder ticket on someone who could easily be a two category boost, with downside in other areas. And I don’t know anyone crazy enough to dream about 35 or 40 homers here.
Well, maybe I know one guy.
You want Cespedes on your team, all you. I’ll nominate him early, while you still have plenty of money left. Step up to the plate.