(This article was recently updated based on current ADP trends)
Star of one of the more bizarre YouTube videos you will ever see-- scouting, marketing or otherwise-- A’s outfielder Yoenis Cespedes entered MLB last season as the most hyped Cuban hitter in recent memory. But despite his record-setting numbers in the Cuban League, it was impossible to translate his performance to the Majors; in fact Cespedes, despite Oakland’s financial commitment, wasn’t even guaranteed an Opening-Day roster spot. He wasn’t joining anything resembling a quality lineup, and he was forced to contend with the added challenge of hitting in a very pitcher-friendly home ballpark. Further, he possessed the type of max-effort swing that screams “moonshots” but also “Dave Kingman.” Thus, in the realm of fantasy, he was an unknown, a player to take a flier on.
With the benefit of hindsight though, we now know what the “Cuban Missile” is really bringing to the table. Cespedes made the team out of camp, provided an early statement by launching three HR in the four-game season-opening series at the Tokyo Dome, and for all intents and purposes, he never looked back. Sure, he missed most of May and battled an assortment of nagging injuries, but as the season wore on he got stronger, posting an elite triple-slash of .311/.376/.533 after the All-Star break. Fears about his production at the Coliseum in Oakland proved unfounded: he slugged .531 at home with 11 of his 23 HR, and he was also an equal-opportunity masher, tallying an .853 OPS versus LHP and an .864 OPS against RHP. Cespedes also flashed twenty-steal potential, swiping twelve bags after July 1 and registering an 80% success rate for the season.
RotoBaller's 2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Score: 8.5
(scores are from 1 - 10, with 10 being the biggest sleeper potential based on current ADPs)
RotoBaller's 2013 Fantasy Baseball Projection: .282/29/91/86/18
RotoBaller's Target Draft Rounds: Rounds 3-4
Cespedes is by no means a "classic" sleeper. But he's currently going near rounds 4-5, and his numbers look similar to someone by the name of Andrew McCutchen (who's a consensus 1st round pick). If you can draft Cespedes in round 4, and he puts up round 1-2 numbers, that would be a large draft profit for your team. Due to the fact that Cespedes is still ascending, he should be one of the top twelve outfielders off the board in almost all formats. Provided he can avoid the injury bug, you should look at him as a player who can provide 30 HR, 100 RBI and 20 SB. Like most every power hitter, Cespedes will strike out his fair share, but for a player that swings like he’s playing slow-pitch softball, his 18.6% strikeout rate in 2012 was not unreasonable. Be advised that his .326 BABIP portends a slight decline in his surprising .292 BA, but his tape-measure power has the ability to more than make up for that. Draft Cespedes, and you just may find yourself lighting a Cohiba come September.
Be sure to also check out RotoBaller's full 2013 fantasy baseball Outfield rankings with ADP comparisons.