Yoennis Cespedes, the latest in a long line of Cuban baseball players to defect to the U.S. could be cleared soon by MLB to enter free agency. The Cuban center fielder, who defected this summer, has been living and training at the Born to Play Baseball Academy and VIP Fitness in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
According to the video, Cespedes is to hitting what Aroldis Chapman is to pitching. If this is even close to to true, several clubs will fall all over themselves to pony up $30-plus million to sign the Cuban star very soon after he becomes a free agent. The New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, and several other teams are rumored to be very interested.
The 6'0", 215-pound Cespedes, who lists his age as 26, is the son of softball pitching legend Estela Milanes, who played for the 2000 Cuban Olympic softball team. Unlike his mother, Yoenis has made his name hitting rather than pitching. When he played for Team Cuba in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, his name was spelled Yoennis, and he performed well, hitting .458. The video alternates between spelling his name "Yoennis" and "Yoenis."
In the fall of 2009 Cespedes played for Cuba in the World Baseball Cup, starting in center fielder but struggled at the plate, hitting only .199, before being replaced by Leonys Martin, who was recently signed by the Texas Rangers.
Yoenis broke the Cuban single-season home run record in March of this year, hitting an opposite-field shot for his 33rd home run of the season. In addition, Cespedes finished the Cuban season hitting .333 with 89 runs scored and 99 RBI.
But here is where things start to get strange. I'm not sure I'd even call it strange—it's just downright odd. Cespedes' agent has leaked a link to an online video showcasing his abilities. You might think that it's all about baseball, but it's not. NOTE: Cespedes' agents have taken down the video, I'm only supposing because every sportswriter in the world has made fun of it today. I'll post a new video to the right as soon as I can find one. UPDATE: A new version has been found!
Here's a rundown: The video, with a running time of 20:04, begins with an obvious ripoff from the movie Star Wars. From there, we slip into music by Christoper Cross, followed by Jay-Z, Chris Brown, and Swizz Beatz. You'll have to forgive some of the explicit lyrics. Just turn down the sound. But, wait, that's not even the strange part.
With the magic of video editing, albeit sloppy editing, Cespedes hits eight home runs in a row at one point, makes behind-the-back catches, watches a home run for what surely could be a record of some sort, box-jumps 45 inches, bench presses more than an NFL lineman and squats all the weights in the room PLUS two people.
While I'm a fan of nifty marketing, some parts of the video may be more Star Wars than real. I'm also pretty certain that the amount of time he spent looking at his home run will only be surpassed by the amount of time MLB pitchers will spend contemplating planting a fastball in his ribs in his next plate appearance.
When you watch the video, don't quit too early. The strangest, yes, strangest, parts are at the very end. And don't fast forward to the "good" parts, where we're treated to a picture of Yoennis' mother, which is nice, then video of a large, sweaty, shirtless man dancing, and finally Cespedes roasting a whole hog over a charcoal pit. The last 30 or so seconds are reserved for watching the pig being turned over the fire while Cespedes stokes the coals.
I'll be as eager as anyone to see what Cespedes can do in MLB. Watching the bidding war, hopefully, will take our attention off of the rest of the free-agent market for just a while.
Like other recent Cuban defectors before him—including Chapman, Kendrys Morales, Alexei Ramirez, Jose Iglesias, Dayan Vicedo and Leonys Martin—Cespedes is a talent with apparently limitless potential. This group is the next-generation of Cuban players destined for success in MLB.