Yoenis Cespedes Rookie of the Year Watch: A's Outfielder Handed Minor Setback

Nathaniel JueSenior Writer IIMay 9, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 08: Yoenis Cespedes #52 of the Oakland Athletics was scratched from the line-up but looks on from the dugout before their game started against the Toronto Blue Jays at O.co Coliseum on May 8, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

It was a torrid start to the 2012 MLB season for Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. In the first six weeks of the season, Cespedes put up some impressive numbers considering he had only a little over a month of spring training to acclimate himself to American baseball.

Despite his newness to opposing pitchers and defenses, elongated traveling schedules and road trips (as well as American culture), Cespedes was making an early case for Rookie of the Year candidacy, posting a .250 batting average with five home runs, 19 runs batted in and four stolen bases through April.

However, Cespedes fever has died down a tad, and the fanfare surrounding his exciting performance on the field will be shelved for the meantime. Cespedes injured his left hand during batting practice prior to Oakland’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday. He did not play in that evening’s contest.

It was reported on Wednesday by CSNBayArea.com that Cespedes had X-rays taken: No structural damage was found, although he does have a strained muscle in the back of his hand.

He is listed as day-to-day. Manager Bob Melvin acknowledged Cespedes could be ready for Oakland’s upcoming four-game series against the Detroit Tigers.

This absence probably comes at a good time for Cespedes, though it definitely halts A’s fans’ interest in the team. He had appeared in nearly every game this season, and he could possibly use a little rest.

Over his past nine games, he was 8-for-39 with two extra-base hits, dropping his batting average to .245 for the season. He will have to pace himself in order to adapt to the lengthy 162-game MLB schedule; so now might be a good time for Cespedes to gather himself while he’s in the midst of a mini-slump of sorts.

Unfortunately for Oakland fans, Cespedes’ injury curbs his Rookie of the Year campaign, albeit only briefly.

He had been one of the more consistent performers for the A’s in their surprising season. Through Wednesday’s game, Cespedes leads the team in runs batted in (21) and ranks second in home runs (five), hits (26) and extra-base hits (10). Throw in four stolen bases and a .753 OPS, and Cespedes has put together a very well-rounded season.

Presently, he leads all American League rookies in homers, runs batted in, stolen bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

It’s his five-tool abilities that have A’s fans agog. The team’s offense as a whole is eking by at the bottom of the league, and Cespedes has been a tantalizing bright spot amongst many dull performances from regulars like Coco Crisp, Cliff Pennington, Kurt Suzuki and Jemile Weeks.

The Athletics must have Cespedes remain healthy and able to perform at high level during Oakland’s offensive struggles. He brings energy and excitement to every pitch in every at-bat. The A’s have not had a bona fide star position player in nearly a decade, and Cespedes showed early on this season that he is capable of being an All-Star-caliber outfielder. That is something the team and its fans desperately need.

The good thing is that Cespedes’ injury is just a minor setback, and his subsequent time off will be only temporary.

If Oakland wants to continue to defy the odds with their winning record, they need to have Cespedes back in the lineup and at full strength. More importantly, his Rookie of the Year campaign will be back on, too.

Follow me on Twitter: @nathanieljue