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Yoenis Cespedes: Reactions from the Prospect Experts

Much hyped Cuban outfield prospect Yoenis Cespedes finally signed yesterday with the Oakland A's. Who saw that coming? Let me get this right. They trade a young, pretty good starting pitcher for 4 prospects, and trade their closer for a few more, and now they go out and sign Yoenis Cespedes for 4 years and $36 million? I am not sure what Billy Beane is up to, but you have to give him some credit for outbidding several other trams with deeper pockets. Do you start to wonder if this was his plan all along?

I heard the A's Director of Player Personnel, Billy Owens, interviewed on SiriusXM's Inside Pitch show on my ride home last evening, and Owens stated that they see Cespedes as a center fielder. Interesting for sure. One thing that bothered me in the interview was that he repeatedly said that the team felt Cespedes was worth the "gamble". Why not use "investment" instead?

Reactions to the Cespedes signing after the jump:

When the news was announced yesterday, I emailed a few fantasy owners asking where he would start the season. I immediately felt he would start the season in the minors. One owner agreed with me, the other did not.

Here is what Kevin Goldstein had to say in his Top 101 Prospect chat yesterday:

mattseward (Cardiff, UK): Kevin, what is your criteria regarind International exclusions on the list such as Yu Darvish?

Kevin Goldstein: Yu Darvish needs ZERO development. Nobody thinks he needs any time in the minors at all. Some think Cespedes does, but I don't think Oakland is one of those teams.

Goldstein thinks the A's will start him in the big leagues based on his response here, but for a team like the A's, who aren't expected to compete till they get a new ballpark, should allow him time in the minors to get used to major league pitching.

Our own John Sickels agrees with Goldstein. Here is John from his piece on Cespedes yesterday:

Is he ready for the majors now? Unless he totally bombs in spring training, he should be in the Opening Day lineup. Will he be worth the money and live up to the hype? Cespedes has the natural ability to be at least a 20/20 player with impressive center field defense, but beyond that it is hard to say. Is he a .300 hitter? A .250 hitter? Will he draw walks or will he be impatient? How much OBP will you get out of him? Will he strike out a lot or make good contact? How will he adjust mentally and emotionally to North America? Is he a Cuban Adam Jones (a common comp), or Chris Young, or Colby Rasmus, or Matt Kemp?

I don't know, but it will sure be interesting to watch. If I had to rank him on my Top 50 hitting prospects list, he'd probably be ninth.

John likes Cespedes a bit here and may have changed my mind on who I will draft at #2 in the minor league portion of my AL-only keeper league draft.

Here is what ESPN's Keith Law had to say in his analysis piece yesterday:

Cespedes hasn't faced a lot of good pitching and has faced very little pitching of any sort since defecting, so he'll probably be best served spending a few weeks or even months in the upper minors to shake off the rust and get used to facing better-quality off-speed stuff. The pull-happy approach leaves him very vulnerable on the outer half, and that kind of effort makes it hard to stay on the ball unless you've got superb hand-eye coordination.

Here is what Ben Badler had to say about where to start him in his very detailed scouting report over at Baseball America:

If Cespedes doesn't start in the big leagues, he would almost certainly open in Triple-A. However, given that the team that signs him will likely have an immediate need for him in either center or possibly right field, the odds are good that he will begin his career in a major league uniform. Then again, Cespedes hasn't played competitive baseball since Granma was eliminated from the playoffs on April 2, so an immediate big league job isn't a guarantee.

Both KLaw and Badler stated that he has 25-30 home run potential, and Badler mentioned some scouts think he could be a 30-30 hitter in the big leagues. That might be a huge stretch as there were only 17 hitters who stole 30 or more bases in 2011, with 4 of them hitting 30+ homers as well. The 30-30 club is a solid group including Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ian Kinsler and Ryan Braun. I wouldn't put Cespedes in that company right away, but you never know. Some scouts gave him a 65-70 grade for his speed and a 70 grade for his power.

Cespedes struggled a bit in his 30+ at bats in the Dominican Winter League this season, small sample size and all. That was his first game actions since last April, so he has to be pretty rusty right now, but he should get back into the swing of things in Spring Training. As stated above, I think he will start the season in the minors in 2012, and get a call up once he shows he can hit some professional off speed stuff.

So what do Fake Teamers think? Will Cespedes start the season in the minors or the big leagues?