I don’t think there was a baseball writer, fan, or executive on the planet that didn’t think Yoenis Cespedes was going to elevate himself to near MVP status in 2013. After entering the 2012 season as something of an unknown, Cespedes gave us all glimpses of the ability he had as he put together a solid season that would have been worthy of a Rookie of the Year award had it not been for the presence of Mike Trout. Cespedes is a rare talent, the prototypical 5-tool player. There isn’t anything he can’t do on the field.
That’s what makes his troule in 2013 so puzzling. The Cespedes that we all fell in love with last year hasn’t shown up this year. Before he signed with the Athletics the major knock on him was his inability to hit breaking balls, and even worse his inability to lay off said breaking balls. For the most part, that didn’t come to pass in 2012. This year has been a different story, he’s chasing pitches all over the place, and striking out at a much higher rate than in 2012. Last year he struck out 18.9% of the time, this year it’s up to 24.3%. His walk rate is down from 8.0% to 7.4%, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but his BB/K rate went 0.42 in 2012 to 0.30 in 2013.
While he has had a couple of minor injuries, one of which did have him spend some time on the disabled list, the problems he’s been having do not appear to be physical. While he’s posted a disappointing .226/.289/.455 slash line with 15 home runs, it’s evident that the power is still there. He’s run into his home runs in bunches, posting 3 multi home run games just in the last month, but just when we think he might be starting to heat up, he falls right back into his bad habits.
I’m no swing guru, so I won’t attempt to dissect every movement and nuance in his swing to figure out why he’s been struggling. But the one thing I can clearly see is that he’s swinging incredibly hard an awful lot. There’s no way to quantify the power of his swings, but anyone who watches him take an at bat can see it. It’s understandable for a player to want to hit for as much power as is humanly possible, after all chicks do dig the long ball, but Yoenis needs to understand that a player as strong as he is doesn’t need to swing like that. He has a better chance of throwing his back out with a swing like that than he does of taking a MLB pitcher deep.
While half the season is now gone, and you definitely cannot declare that it’s simply a slow start for Cespedes, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope for him still. Baseball is the ultimate game of adjustments, and the league has assuredly adjusted to him and have started attacking his weaknesses with ruthless aggression. The burden is now on his back to readjust to the rest of the league so he can get back on track towards becoming the player we all know he can be. He is putting up decent power numbers despite not putting together many good at bats this year, so let’s just take a moment to imagine what he could be doing if he started giving us quality at bats. The sky is still the limit for Yoenis Cespedes, it’s up to him to get his feet of the ground. The fate of the 2013 Oakland Athletics could very well rest on it.