MLB Scouting Notes: Yoenis Cespedes

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Yoenis Cespedes has been one of the top attractions this month in Arizona, as all eyes are on the Cuban import to see what Oakland is getting for their $36 million investment. So, what's the early verdict on the center fielder as the A's prepare to leave Arizona for Japan? There of course is no clear cut answer, but there's reason to believe Cespedes may have some growing pains.

"The skills are pretty dynamic," one scout explained regarding Cespedes. "But, he's an all out type guy at the plate and he might be exploited early on."

There's a chorus of enthusiasm littered with hedging of bets when it comes to scout's evaluations of Yoenis Cespedes. He wows with his raw tools, but does some things in game action that lead evaluators to be cautious before gushing about his upside.

After seeing a couple full games of Cespedes' at-bats, that type of evaluation seems about right. His bat speed, his foot speed, and arm all have the ability to dazzle in game action, but there are some mechanical aspects of his game that can make you question him.

Cespedes possesses booming game ready type of power. He is, however, very pull conscious, not just in approach but in how his swing mechanics are designed as well. If you look closely at most his swings, you see his hips begin to rotate very early. He almost immediately is trying to clear those hips and get his hands out in front to the ball.

If a pitcher throws him a fastball or makes any sort of mistake inside, he's probably going to crush it given his all-world type hand speed. But, he's proven to be very vulnerable to anything off-speed on the outer half of the plate. It's of course a common vulnerability for an inexperienced power bat, but it is something he's going to have to deal with to be successful in the big leagues.

"That front side comes out pretty quickly," said one scout who recently watched Cespedes. "A lot of his raw ability makes up for his shortcomings, but I do think he has to make some adjustments."

This is not something the A's scouts missed, however. It's not a defining deficiency and some highly productive players have worked around such issues. Exhibit A is Andruw Jones. Jones is not the player he once was, but he's always had the tendency to release his hips early, get his hands out front and attempt to pull most pitches. If you look at old footage of Jones, him and Cespedes have a lot in common in terms of mechanics.

So, the answer to this problem is not changing who Cespedes is at the plate. This is the hitter that he is and he landed a $36 million dollar deal using these very swing mechanics. What he will have to do is adjust his approach. Major League pitchers, armed with advanced scouting reports, will attack his weaknesses on the outside part of the plate, and Cespedes is going to need to remain patient. Plenty of hitters have areas of the plate where they can be exploited, but plate discipline allows them to work around it.

"I'm sure he'll tweak some things mechanically," added the scout. "But his adjustment is going to be a lot about his approach."

That couldn't be more true, and yes, while he won't make any radical mechanical changes there is something he can do to help himself. Although he strides into a more closed position in his load, his hips are still releasing early. And, that's mostly because his front foot tends to land in a slightly open position. If he can land with his front toe pointed more toward home plate than toward the pitcher, he'd likely see an improvement in his ability to hit the outside pitch and go to the opposite field.

In other words, what Oakland has here is not a finished product, but a player blessed with enormous talent and because of that talent is able to get away with some fundamental flaws. Whether he adjusts or not, he looks like he's going to be a potent offensive force in the big leagues. The question is, though, will he be an all or nothing type bat, or can he adjust and become a far more complete hitter that his ability says he should be? Only time will tell.

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