Yoenis Cespedes was a hot topic at some point. So was Yu Darvish. But they're yesterday's news! Who will be the hot topic for a month in 2015?
Yoenis Cespedes' agent made a promotional video and put it on YouTube. You might have heard about it. In it, Cespedes either bench-pressed an '81 Trans Am, or someone hilariously dubbed over his voice and pretended that he was upset his food was going to the cat. Not sure. My anti-virus program automatically shuts down anything playing Christopher Cross, so I couldn't finish the video. But I'm told it was really something.
This week, Cespedes is meeting with the Marlins, the team that will eventually sign him. And eventually, he'll play a game in the majors. He'll still be an exciting, unknown quantity for a while, but then we'll know something more about him. We'll know what kind of player Cespedes is. The scuttlebutt is that he might be something between Colby Rasmus and Adam Jones.
Which is cool. I guess. That would be a really valuable player. But I'm still hoping for a few 50/50 seasons, with an outside chance that he shoots yoga fire out of his nostrils whenever he's especially focused. That's what YouTube promised, anyway. YouTube wouldn't lie to me.
Eventually the mystique will fade. There's a chance that he'll be an All-Star; there's a chance that he'll completely flame out. Then we'll think of Cespedes in the same way that we think of Bobby Abreu, Nick Swisher, or Ruben Rivera -- as a known quantity of a baseball player.
What I'm trying to say is that Yoenis Cespedes was so last month. In music-snob terminology: His first E.P. was cool, but his stuff went downhill right as he was about to sign with a major label. Shame, really. He had such great potential, even if only in our minds. Now he has to play baseball against other major-league teams and become a typical baseball player. The exact same thing holds true with Yu Darvish, who is almost certainly the same thing as a 1968 Bob Gibson until he throws a pitch. But now that Cespedes and Darvish have signed and will play soon, we're all out of international free agents to get irrationally agog over, right?
No. There is another.
Enter Alfredo Despaigne, the heir to the Cespedes throne in Cuba. The 25-year-old was Cuba's DH in the 2008 Olympics, and he likely would have been this year if the IOC weren't filled with priggish, horrible people who cancelled Olympic baseball. And Despaigne is currently on fire.
The Granma outfielder hit his 20th home run of the season today, the latest in a recent homer binge that included two home runs in a game on Sunday and one on Wednesday, and all in just 46 games.
That's about a 70-homer pace for a 162-game season, because I'm sure that those Cuban stats just transfer riiiight over. It's hard not to be fascinated. From Baseball-Reference's Bullpen:
Alfredo remained one of Cuba's biggest stars in 2009-2010, hitting .404/.489/.814. He led the league in average, doubles (37), home runs (31) and total bases (258, 22 ahead of runner-up Yulieski Gourriel).
He's a monster of the Cuban leagues, a perennial All-Star and three-time league MVP. He's amazing. And here's my favorite part:
He's only 5'9", 170 lbs
In other words, he was created when God was screwing around with the player-creator feature. We have a home-run machine going nuts on Cuban pitching right now, and he's a little bigger than Mike Fontenot. This is the holy grail of amazing and unknown.
Even better: He will remain in Cuba indefinitely. Well, that's not better for baseball, nor is it better for anyone who wants to watch him on a regular basis. But it's better for anyone who wants to keep wishcasting about the next big international what-if once Cespedes and Darvish become a regular part of the 162-game grind that we're so familiar with.
Despaigne needs 13 home runs over the next 44 games to reclaim his own single-season record. After that, he'll presumably play in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, where he'll absolutely crush Italian pitching, or some such, and we'll just have to sit back and wonder just how good that guy could be. There always has to be one international man of baseball mystery. We're losing two this year, and that's bittersweet. But there is another. There is another.