Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes made his professional debut Thursday evening in the Aguilas Cibaenas loss to the Gigantes del Cibao, 6-4, in the round-robin stage of the Dominican Winter League playoffs.
Cespedes, serving as the team's DH, went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a hit by pitch in an underwhelming game which saw the Aguilas drop to 4-9 and eliminated from the postseason.
The 26-year-old smashed a record-setting 33 homers during the Cuban National Series season before leaving his homeland. Expectations were unfairly high headed into his debut, but an 0-for debut does little to hurt his value.
I'm not convinced it's is the best thing for him when it comes to negotiations with major-league clubs, so I can only assume he's hoping to use the last week of the league's season to showcase his talents.
His value is not in his ability to hit for a high average. He is an explosive hitter with plus speed and a great arm. He's an athlete who just happens to have holes in his swing. He won't hit .300 in the majors, but that's not why clubs are interested in him. The potential for a Gold Glove outfielder with 30-30 potential is.
Wearing No. 51 and batting in front of big league veteran Miguel Tejada and behind outfielder Brandon Moss, Cespedes failed to provide a lift for Aguilas out of the No. 5 spot.
Cespedes' first at-bat came against right-hander Erick Abreu, who went 6-8 with a 4.64 ERA between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City last year.
Batting with two men out and runners on the corners in the first inning, Cespedes—wearing an elbow protector on his left arm—took a curveball for a strike before laying off three consecutive pitches to work the count to 3-1.
He was early on a fastball inside, a pitch Abreu left higher than he probably wanted, but Cespedes struck out on a hanging curve on the sixth pitch of the at-bat. His bat went flying from his hands and flew toward the on-deck circle down the third base line.
In his second at-bat, Cespedes struck out on three pitches against New York Mets right-hander Jeurys Familia.
With a runner on first and no outs, Cespedes took a 95 mph fastball for a strike to start the at-bat and slapped another heater foul down the first-base line for strike two. Then, the outfielder whiffed on another mid-90s fastball in the dirt down and away.
In the fifth, Cespedes went down swinging again, this time against Houston Astros right-hander Rhiner Cruz. He took a slider away for a strike and then swung over a pair of breaking balls, prompting boos from the home fans in attendance.
Cespedes' final at-bat came in the seventh inning, when he came to the dish representing the potential tying run. Moss should have made the second out of the frame, but his high chopper was misplayed by first baseman Wilson Betemit, allowing a run to score
Cespedes took a 94 mph fastball from Roman Colon for a strike and then layed off a slider away. Colon came back inside with the next pitch, hitting Cespedes on the outside left bicep between the elbow and shoulder.
He remained in the game, but was erased following batter Tejada's inning-ending double play.
Cespedes is still unable to play baseball in America right now, but ESPN reporter Enrique Rojas says he is "close to receiving his letter of temporary residency in the Dominican Republic."
The Aguilas has lost seven of its past eight games in the round-robin semifinals and are in last place. The club needed to win its last six games to reach the finals.
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