In the A’s run to the AL West crown in 2012 Yoenis Céspedes made a huge splash and helped carry the offense with his clutch hits and long home runs producing a triple slash line of .292/.356/.505 (batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage). His defense left a little to be desired after moving from centerfield in the Serie Nacional (Cuban professional baseball league) to leftfield in MLB, but he still made some spectacular plays in the process and his defense was expected to improve after a full season playing in left.
Last season was a different story for Céspedes however. His defense never improved and his offense slumped to a triple slash of .240/.294/.442. Manager Bob Melvin at times in the second half of last season would give Céspedes a day off or two to rest, a sign he was struggling to make adjustments and getting frustrated. The lone positive in 2013, individually, for Céspedes was his impressive home run derby display in which he ultimately won.
San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser mentioned late last week that Céspedes had made a couple of noticeable changes. The first change was that he added fifteen pounds of muscle. He was already bulked up so fifteen more pounds of muscle is impressive. There are a couple of things to take away from this. The first is that this will make Céspedes not only stronger offensively, but less injury prone. The stronger a player is and the more they condition the less common injuries they sustain.
The second change that Céspedes made this offseason was shortening his swing and overall approach at the plate. One of the reasons for Céspedes’ struggles last season was that he swung and missed at a lot of bad pitches. If Céspedes can limit the number of bad pitches he swings and misses at in 2014 and instead swing at better pitches or instead take more pitches not only will his overall production go up, but he will be on base more providing better opportunities for whoever is hitting behind him to put up bigger numbers.
Most players who come into Spring Training talk about how they are in the best shape they have ever been or variations of that. Céspedes is in great shape and he genuinely sounds like he loves it in Oakland. He even mentioned being open to an extension to finish his career with the A’s. Expect Céspedes to have an MVP-caliber season in 2014. His defense will vastly improve. He will be healthy. And his new swing and approach will guide him to huge numbers. I predict Céspedes to eclipse the long-standing A’s drought of no player having over 100 RBI’s. My prediction for Céspedes in 2014: .320/.390/.550 with 35 HR and 110 RBI. If he can come close to those numbers the A’s will be in a good position to capture their third straight AL West crown.