PHOENIX, AZ: Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes #52 of the Oakland Athletics in the dugout before the start of a spring training baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds at the Phoenix Municipal Stadium in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Yoenis Cespedes has now played one game of Major League Baseball. Let us over-analyze him and his performance!
What follows is going to be very poorly written because I was one of the people on the West Coast to wake up at 3am for live season-opening baseball. Please be forgiving, and I promise I'll try to be better starting
tomorrow not tomorrow because the next baseball game in Japan is an hour earlier than the first one was. I can't tell if that's a step in the right direction or a step in the wrong direction. That is the no-man's land of the night.
Over the offseason, Yoenis Cespedes emerged really fast, like something that emerges really fast. (Lava, sometimes?) It was all driven by a YouTube video that showed the Cuban outfielder doing baseball things and vaguely-baseball-related things. Cespedes showed himself to be a magnificent athlete, with his talent supported by his Cuban statistics, and interest in his services was widespread as he set about making himself available. Eventually he signed with the Oakland Athletics, which was weird.
Now, with the regular-season opener behind us, Cespedes has one game of major league experience. It's not fair to scout a player based on one game, especially when it's his first meaningful game in a new country at the highest level of competition, but it's also not fair to scout a player based on a few minutes of YouTube footage, so the way I figure, if we can do one, we can do the other! What you're going to see are .gifs of every single pitch that Yoenis Cespedes saw on Wednesday. There will be no .gifs of him playing defense because I don't recall him doing anything noteworthy on defense. He's probably a fine defender.
By the way, Cespedes batted four times, and the first three times were against Felix Hernandez. He wasn't exactly getting eased in.
Buzzed with the first pitch. The first-ever pitch Yoenis Cespedes saw in a meaningful major-league game nearly hit him in the wiener.
He got a breaking ball and took it! It was a strike.
This breaking ball he did not take. It was not a strike, but he made it a strike.
I guess when you debut a guy against Felix Hernandez you shouldn't be too surprised when this happens.
Here we are in the second plate appearance, which Cespedes started off by taking an offspeed pitch for a ball. Not bad?
Another 1-and-0 offspeed pitch. The Mariners probably didn't want to give Cespedes too many fastballs if they didn't have to.
And Cespedes gets hit on the arm. He almost swings at the pitch that hits him on the arm.
We go to the third plate appearance. Once again, Cespedes takes, and once again, Cespedes gets ahead. This is not an easy pitch to judge. I'd say that's a perfect two-strike fastball.
Three times Felix fell behind Cespedes 1-and-0. Three times Felix came back with an offspeed pitch that Cespedes took for a strike. This is a pitch in a perfect spot - not a lot that Cespedes could probably do.
Kablammo! Cespedes gets a low curveball, and even though his lower body is a little out in front, he keeps his hands back and drives the ball deep to the right side of center. There's that raw strength, plain for everyone to see.
Fourth plate appearance, with Cespedes now facing Tom Wilhelmsen. He takes the first pitch, again for a ball. He seemed to be committed to taking before the pitch was thrown.
This time Cespedes gets a 1-and-0 fastball and fouls it off with a wicked swing. He probably didn't miss by much.
Cespedes' debut didn't end on a high note.
Here's what we figured Yoenis Cespedes would probably be: a very athletic, very strong center fielder with limited and occasionally sloppy plate discipline. That's basically what we saw in the season's first game. Cespedes stood in for 14 pitches. One of them he killed to center for extra bases. He swung at six of them, and four of those swings missed as he went after low offspeed pitches out of the zone. He almost swung at a pitch that hit him. One of his takes looked to be decided ahead of time. One of his takes was on a pitch no one would've swung at. Another was on a pitch that began at head level and probably wasn't very tempting.
If you had an idea of Yoenis Cespedes in mind, and if your idea was like most other people's ideas, Cespedes' debut didn't do anything to change the outlook. He was strong, he was aggressive, and he whiffed. The good news is that Cespedes showed that he can hit a breaking ball. The less-good news is that he showed that he might not do it that often.