Oakland Athletics: Can Yoenis Cespedes Carry the A's in the Playoffs?

Matt HinesCorrespondent IOctober 1, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Yoenis Cespedes #52 of the Oakland Athletics hits an RBI triple driving in Stephen Drew #5 (not pictured) in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at O.co Coliseum on September 30, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The A’s all-or-none offense has had few consistent hitters throughout the season, but one bat Manager of the Year candidate Bob Melvin has been able to stencil in the lineup daily with confidence has been the shivering lumber of rookie outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

 

And in playoffs, where the stakes are the highest and the pressure is the greatest, Cespedes is definitely a guy you don’t mind having up at the plate during a climatic moment.

The Cuban defector has been on a power surge through the month of September, ripping seven home runs and helping lead the A’s into an improbable run to postseason baseball for the first time since 2006. He’s put up excellent numbers in his rookie campaign, and looks like he’ll be one of the bread and butter pieces to the A’s lineup going forward.

Cespedes has shown no drop off in clutch situations. He has a 1.183 OPS in the final week of September and has hit five home runs that have either tied or put the A’s in the lead, tied with teammate Gomes for the third most amongst any player in the majors (Adam Jones and Billy Butler both have seven each.). The A’s are just 12-22 when Cespedes isn’t in the lineup, further asserting his value to the team.

While Cespedes might be young and his power swing a seemingly a bit reckless at times, he’s actually proven to be quite disciplined at the plate, much to the liking of the A’s sabermetric ways. His .353 OBP to go along with 101 strikeouts in just under 500 at bats in 2012 is quite impressive, considering his lack of experience in the majors.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, his rate of missed swings has dropped from 35 percent pre-wrist injury in May to 25 percent after the malady.

Cespedes has been particularly hot of late, spurning in key wins like the one against Seattle on September 30, falling just a double short of the cycle and hitting the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of a pivotal series, helping the A’s pull within two games behind the Rangers for the AL West division crown.

Cespedes also went yard twice against the Rangers in their four game set in Arlington earlier this week; however, both of those home runs came in games the A’s lost on the road.

What people typically forget about Cespedes (possibly due to his gargantuan frame) is his ability to run the base paths effectively and efficiently. He’s recorded a handful of stolen bases on the year with 16, and has been caught just three times in 2012.

When every run and out matters, you definitely want a guy on the bases that isn’t going to get picked off, making Cespedes an ideal person to have on the paths.

Extra base hits are crucial to the Athletics’ success, and with Cespedes third on the roster with a .509 SLG percentage, he’s the ideal candidate for the heart of the A’s lineup. Cespedes is capable of hitting to all fields, and when he’s not throwing out his back swinging for the fences and/or trying to pull the ball to the corners.

Should the A’s squeak into the playoffs, Cespedes’ clutch factor could have him grabbing national headlines should he produce in key situations through October, like he’s done all season in Oakland. A one game playoff will be tough on both sides, but Cespedes gives Melvin an ace in his deck to deal.