Yoenis Cespedes is an exciting talent. Whether he's gunning runners down from deep in the outfield or sending balls arching into the seats, he is one of those rare performers that can illicit oohs and aahs from the masses. My question, and the main thrust of this piece, is just how good is he in the fantasy game? I will posit that he's overrated. Let's see if I can sway you to the dark side – even if I know I've got no chance of convincing my co-host on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio – Kyle Elfrink.
THE CAREER NUMBERS
2012: .292-23-82-70-16 with a .861 OPS
2013: .240-26-80-74-7 with a .737 OPS
2014: .272-14-55-50-1 with a .819 OPS
.267/.324/.477 over 286 games
THE 2014 PERFORMANCE
Cespedes has 15 homers, a total that ties him for 8th in baseball.
Cespedes has driven in 55 runs. That's the 11th best mark in baseball.
Cespedes has scored 50 times. That's tied for 12th in baseball.
Those are all, obviously, elite totals. So what's the problem with Yoenis?
Cespedes currently has a .272 batting average. Among players who have at least 250 plate appearances this season that number is 72nd in baseball.
Cespedes has stolen one base this season. There are 217 men in baseball who have at least two steals.
Obviously what we have here is a player who is a star in three categories, passable in a fourth, and horrible in the fifth. Does that make Cespedes a fantasy all-star? Anybody think that Albert Pujols is a fantasy star this season? Well, his fantasy value is virtually identical to that of Cespedes.
A. Pujols: .254-17-50-46-3
Again folks I ask... is Cespedes really a fantasy star?
Cespedes is a career .267 hitter. That fits his skills much more closely than the .292 mark he tossed up there as a rookie. Let's look at the numbers.
His career walk rate is 7.2 percent while his K-rate is 20.7 percent. The result is a 0.35 BB/K ratio that is about a 5-10 points below the league average.
His career BABIP is .299. That's in the league average range.
His career line drive rate is 18 percent. That's a tad below the league average which is usually in the 19-20 range.
His career contact rate is 75 percent. Another league average mark. It's nice to see the number at nearly 81 percent this season. Is that a sample size artifact or can he sustain this new level? Time will tell but history suggests a regression, even if slight, is in the cards.
He's just not a good bet to see his average improve.
Does he get on base? Not really. This season his OBP is .326. His career mark is .324. Since his career began the AL average is .321. Obviously this is more league average stuff Cespedes.
The power is legit, but his approach is another reason while there is little hope of batting average improvement. For his career he owns a 0.86 HR/F ratio. The league average is about 1.10. Obviously he hits a lot of fly balls. This season he's taken that approach to crazy heights as his fly ball rate is 48 percent leading to a 0.71 GB/FB ratio. Tough to do anything other than hit homers at that level. Interestingly, the extra fly balls have masked a drop in his HR/F ratio. After marks of 14.8 and 14.4 percent his first two seasons that ratio is just 11.5 percent this year. That's well within the realm of normal variance. However, if he can continue to lift the ball at his current rate, and his homer to fly ball ratio improves, we could see even more homer power in the second half. Again though, this approach will not help him in the batting average category.
Finally, dreams of 20/20 seasons from Cespedes are a distant memory. At this point folks would be happy with a 10/10 effort. After stealing 16 bases in his first season Cespedes has attempted 17 steals over his last 214 games. That's not what anyone wants to see. Even worse has been his success rate. Can you call it a success rate when you've stolen eight bags but been caught nine times over a season an a half? I don't think so. Whether it be because of injuries, injury concerns or just poor judgment, the fact is that he simply doesn't steal bases anymore.
LACK OF HEALTH
This has always been a big issue for me when discussing Yoenis – he's hurt a lot. It's not a chronic issue by any means, but the guy simply cannot seem to stay healthy. One week it's his wrist, then it's his shoulder, then it's his back, then it's his ankle then it's his hamstring. He's always in an out of the lineup. In his first two seasons in the league he appeared in 129 and 135 games. Add those numbers together and you get 132 games played per season. That means his first two campaigns he missed an average of 30 games or more than a month of action. So far this season he's appeared in 79 of the Athletics' 84 games. At this pace he would appear in about 152 games. It remains to be seen if he will get there, but at least he's avoided the dreaded DL stint so far.
For my thoughts on second half performance of Cespedes and others be sure to check out my UPDATED PLAYER RANKINGS.
10 team lg: His power plays in any format. No doubt about that. At the same time his moderate average and lack of stolen base speed relegates him to the realm of merely a power option and not a dynamic player in a league this shallow.
12 team lg: A strong option, but as noted, one that comes with a lot of concerns. Can he stay healthy? Will he ever run again? Is he anything other than a .265-.275 hitter? The power is a great thing to own, and the RBI/runs are impressive, but it's not the easiest thing in the world to score 100 runs while sporting a .326 OBP.
15 team lg: The deeper the league the more we are able to overlook minor faults. If you own Cespedes in a league this size you've got nothing to complain about. The only concern is can he stay healthy in the second half to give him a chance to match his first half production?
AL-only: An elite option for his power. If he keeps himself healthy he will be a massive producer in this format.