When the Oakland Athletics signed former Cuban baseball sensation Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million contract, fans and experts were understandably stunned.
Not only was Cespedes being paid a large sum of money despite never having played at any professional level other than in his home country, but the fact that Oakland, a cash-strapped team who is desperately looking to relocate in order to attract more fans, was the team that signed him was even more surprising.
Cespedes wowed scouts during workouts this winter in the Dominican Republic, and there were certainly quite a few teams interested in signing the five-tool prospect. Cespedes hit 33 home runs and 99 RBI in 90 games in his last full season in Cuba before defecting to the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2011.
In the first two weeks of the 2012 season, Cespedes is hitting just .222, but with four HR and 12 RBI in his first 13 games, Cespedes has definitely shown he can provide plenty of production for the offensively-challenged A’s. His play in center field thus far has also been flawless, with no errors and one assist.
Early on, Cespedes has shown that he is not overmatched at the major league level. The question at this point is—is he truly capable of being a superstar? Some of his teammates certainly think so.
”He’s doing a lot better than a lot of people anticipated, and that’s a good thing for us,” A’s first baseman Daric Barton said. ”He gets big hits at the right time so far. I think he’ll have a great year and a good career. It will be fun playing with him and picking his brain. He’s a good hitter. He’s a quiet assassin for sure. That’s one of those qualities that we like about him. He’s a good dude. He comes to play, he plays hard and he plays right.”
Cespedes already attracts a crowd at the batting cages prior to each game.
”As far as the team goes, no one looks away when he takes batting practice,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. ”We’ve seen him take batting practice many days and it’s still a nice little show to watch.”
What has impressed Melvin even more than Cespedes’ talent is his willingness to listen and learn.
”He studies the game. It’s not like he just sits on the bench and doesn’t watch,” Melvin said. ”Everything he does is measured. It’s not like he’s just out here on ability alone. He’s looking to shorten the gap.”
Cespedes has already shortened the gap in ascending to the majors with no experience. However, considering the work ethic displayed thus far, that gap will continue to shorten over time.
This is a guest post submitted by Mike Wright. Mike played all kinds of sports growing up and adamantly follows everything sports. He works with Phoenix Bats, a company that creates world-class wood bats, such as their premier maple baseball bats, for amateur and professional ball players around the world. Mike loves writing on different sports topics and is honored to contribute here.