Céspedes with the Mets before the 2015 World Series
|New York Mets – No. 52|
October 18, 1985 |
Campechuela, Granma Province, Cuba
|March 28, 2012, for the Oakland Athletics|
(through 2016 season)
|Runs batted in||453|
|Career highlights and awards|
Yoenis Céspedes Milanés (born October 18, 1985), nicknamed La Potencia, is a Cuban professional baseball outfielder for the New York Mets of Major League Baseball (MLB). He has also played in MLB for the Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox, and Detroit Tigers. Before joining the Major Leagues, he played in the Cuban National Series and was a member of the Cuba national baseball team. He won the 2013 and 2014 Home Run Derby. While primarily a left fielder in his early career, he has split between left and center field since joining the Mets.
Céspedes was born in the small town of Campechuela, in Granma Province, Cuba. Céspedes is the son of Estela Milanés, a softball pitcher who appeared in the 2000 Summer Olympics for Cuba, and Cresencio Céspedes, a former Cuban League catcher who separated from Milanés when Yoenis was one year old. At age 10, he was sent by his mother to a state-run school where he could focus on baseball. He played eight seasons in the Cuban Winter League before defecting from Cuba in 2011. In the summer of 2011, Céspedes and six others took a 23-hour speedboat ride departing Cuba and heading for the Dominican Republic. After arriving in the Dominican, he met Dominican agent Edgar Mercedes who established residency for him in Santiago which allowed him to bypass the MLB Draft and become a free-agent.
Céspedes debuted in the Cuban National Series with Granma during the 2003–04 Cuban National Series, hitting .302/.382/.503 (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage). He was considered for the Cuban National Series Rookie of the Year Award, but lost out to Frank Montieth.
He batted .313/.403/.540 in the 2004–05 season. In the 2005–06 season, he hit .351/.444/.649 with 23 home runs, 89 runs and 78 runs batted in (RBI) in 88 games played. He tied Yulieski Gourriel for the National Series lead in runs and was four home runs behind Gourriel for the lead, placing second. He tied for seventh in doubles (24), was second in total bases (220, 6 behind Gourriel) and was 4th in slugging. He hit .481/.481/.741 for Cuba in the 2006 Haarlem Baseball Week.
He produced at a .303/.402/.541 rate in the 2006–2007 season with 17 home runs and 79 runs in 89 games. He again led in runs. He was also fifth in doubles (24), tied Yosvani Peraza for third in home runs, was fourth in total bases (184), tied Alfredo Despaigne for 4th in RBI, tied for 4th in steals (15) and was sixth in slugging. He was 1 for 7 with a steal and a run in the 2007 Pan-American Games in his debut for the Cuban national team.
He hit .284/.342/.552 in the 2007–08 season. He was among the league leaders in RBI (tying teammate Despaigne for third with 78), tied Urgellés for fourth in runs (82), was second in home runs (26, trailing only Alexei Bell) and fourth in 202 total bases.
He was the starting center fielder for Cuba in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He hit .458/.480/1.000 with a double, 3 triples, 2 home runs, five runs and five RBI in six games. He led Cuba in slugging and was second to Frederich Cepeda in average, OBP and OPS. He tied Cepeda and Yulieski Gourriel for the team lead in runs and tied Gourriel for second in homers, behind Cepeda. He broke a 1–1 tie against Australia with a 6th-inning solo homer off Damian Moss and started a 16–4 romp over Mexico with a leadoff triple against Pablo Ortega. Céspedes tripled off Hisashi Iwakuma in Cuba's last game of the tournament, a 5–0 loss to Japan, but did not score. Earlier in that game, he dropped a fly from Michihiro Ogasawara to let the first two Japanese runs score. Cuba thus missed the final four of an event for the first time ever; the Cuban team had also made the finals of every global baseball competition since 1959.
Céspedes batted .323/.411/.601 in the 2008–2009 season with 24 homers and 83 runs in 87 games. He tied Leonys Martín for 4th in the league in runs and tied Rolando Meriño for third in home runs (trailing Alfredo Despaigne and Joan Carlos Pedroso). He was 7th in total bases (197), 9th in RBI (76) and 10th in slugging. He made the All-Star outfield alongside Giorvis Duvergel and Despaigne.
He started the 2009 Baseball World Cup as Cuba's starting center fielder, but struggled and only hit .194/.275/.333 while being caught in his only steal attempt; Martín replaced him as the event went along. In the gold medal game, Céspedes pinch-hit for Yorbis Borroto successfully with a 9th-inning single off Brad Lincoln in Cuba's 10–5 loss to Team USA, settling for a silver medal.
He hit .345/.426/.617 in the 2009–2010 season with 87 runs and 22 homers in 87 contests. He was third in the league in runs (3 behind leader Yulieski Gourriel), 10th in hits (118), 8th in home runs, 4th in total bases (211, behind Alfredo Despaigne, Gourriel and José Dariel Abreu) and was 9th in slugging. He was not picked as an All-Star outfielder as Despaigne, Cepeda and Bell took the three slots.
He went 11 for 22 with 12 runs, 14 RBI, two doubles and four homers in six games at the 2010 World University Baseball Championship. He drove in six against South Korea and five against China. In the gold medal game, he was 0 for 4 with a strikeout as Cuba's fifth batter in a 4–3 win over Team USA. He made the tournament All-Star outfield alongside Mikie Mahtook and Shota Ishimine. He played for Cuba when it finished second in the 2011 Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament. In the 2010 Intercontinental Cup, he was 3 for 10 with a double, three runs, four RBI and a walk as a backup. In the 4–1 win over the Dutch national team in the Gold Medal game, he was the second of three left fielders Cuba used. He replaced Yoandry Urgellés, was retired by Berry van Driel and then replaced by Despaigne.
He put up a .333/.424/.667 batting line with 89 runs, 33 home runs and 99 RBI in 90 games in the 2010–2011 season. He led the league in runs (five ahead of Cepeda), tied Abreu for the home run lead (breaking Despaigne's league record by one), tied Cepeda for the most total bases (236), tied Ramon Tamayo for 7th in steals (11 in 14 tries), led in RBI (6 ahead of Abreu) and finished 5th in slugging. He was named the All-Star center fielder, joining Despaigne and Cepeda in the outfield.
Major League Baseball
After Céspedes defected from Cuba in the summer of 2011, he established residency in the U.S. in January 2012, bypassing the MLB draft and becoming an unrestricted free agent. Céspedes was considered a five-tool outfielder going into free agency. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus declared Céspedes "arguably the best all-around player to come out of Cuba in a generation."
After interest from numerous Major League teams, Céspedes agreed to a 4-year, $36 million contract with the Oakland Athletics on February 13, 2012, with the deal becoming official the following month.
Céspedes began the 2012 season for the Athletics at his usual position of center field, but was later moved to left field upon the return of veteran center fielder Coco Crisp. On March 28, in his major league debut, he went 1 for 3, and was also hit by a pitch. The following day, he hit his first major league home run, a 2-run shot off Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Shawn Kelley. Céspedes had hit his first walk-off home run on June 21 against the Los Angeles Dodgers with the final score of 4–1, resulting in a three-game sweep. The Athletics would go on to win the American League West, with Céspedes batting .316 with a .381 OBP in the postseason.
On July 15, 2013, Céspedes won the 2013 Home Run Derby. A last-minute addition by team captain Robinson Cano to represent the American League squad, he hit 32 home runs total in the exhibition, including 17 in the first round. He defeated the National League's Bryce Harper in the final round by hitting 9 home runs, with five swings to spare. He was the first winner of the contest who had not been selected to that year's All-Star game. Céspedes hit .240 for the year and had 26 home runs along with 80 RBI's. Though Cèspedes had a great postseason, the A's were eliminated by the Detroit Tigers. Céspedes suffered several injuries throughout the season, including wrist, hamstring, and knee injuries.
Céspedes had a great start to the season, hitting .273 with 14 homers and 55 RBIs through July 1, and was 3rd in the All-Star Voting for the AL behind Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Immediately Céspedes was noticed for throwing out runners. After getting 3 putouts against the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, Céspedes gunned down Chris Iannetta and Kole Calhoun at home plate in the same inning in a game against the Angels on May 31. He would have an even more memorable throw, again against the Angels, when he threw out Howie Kendrick at home on June 10. Céspedes bobbled a hit off the bat of Mike Trout, causing Kendrick to attempt to run home. Céspedes corralled the ball and fired a 300-foot throw on the fly to nail Kendrick at the plate. He would once again terrorize Angel baserunners as he threw out Albert Pujols trying to advance to third when the ball got by Céspedes in the next game. This put Céspedes at 11 outfield assists on the season, which led the league.
On July 1, Céspedes suffered a hamstring injury while running against the Tigers on a RBI hit by Brandon Moss. Céspedes along with 5 other A's players (Josh Donaldson, Derek Norris, Brandon Moss, and pitchers Scott Kazmir and Sean Doolittle) were chosen to play in the 2014 MLB All-Star Game in Target Field. In the final week of fan voting to select starters for the All Star Game, he was passed by Adam Jones. On July 14, 2014, Céspedes won the Home Run Derby for a second time, becoming the first player to win consecutive Home Run Derby titles since Ken Griffey Jr. accomplished that feat in 1999. Céspedes played in the 2014 MLB All-Star Game where he went 0 for 2.
Boston Red Sox
On July 31, 2014, Céspedes was traded to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for pitcher Jon Lester and utility player Jonny Gomes. Céspedes hit his first home run as a member of the Boston Red Sox on August 10, 2014 against the Los Angeles Angels, with a 3-run home run. Céspedes ended the season with a .260 batting average with 22 home runs and a career-high 100 RBI.
On December 11, 2014, the Red Sox traded Céspedes along with Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier to the Detroit Tigers for Rick Porcello. Céspedes played his first game with the Tigers during opening day against the Minnesota Twins on April 6, 2015, where he robbed Kurt Suzuki of a home run, leading to a 4–0 victory for the Tigers. Through June 13, Céspedes was hitting .308 with 9 home runs and 33 runs batted in. He was not selected as an All Star but was put in as a player on the All-Star Final Vote. Therefore, he could not compete in the home run derby after winning the two previous years. Céspedes won the American League Rawlings Gold Glove Award in left field. In 99 games for the Tigers, Céspedes had nine assists, 11 Defensive Runs Saved and a 15 Ultimate Zone Rating. He became only the second player in MLB history to win a Gold Glove Award after a mid-season trade between leagues, following Vic Power in 1964.
New York Mets
On July 31, 2015, Céspedes was traded to the New York Mets for minor league pitchers Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. On August 21, Céspedes went 5 for 6 against the Colorado Rockies, hitting 3 home runs in a game for the first time. Céspedes finished a triple shy of the cycle. In his first 41 games with the Mets, Céspedes exploded, posting a .309 batting average, 17 home runs, 42 RBIs, and a .691 slugging percentage. His offensive explosion helped the Mets jump up to a 9.5 game lead over the Washington Nationals in the National League East as of September 14. Because of his efforts, Céspedes was awarded the NL Player of the Week Award for September 7 to the 13th. He batted .345, hit 4 home runs, scored 6 runs, and drove 12 RBI while posting a 1.263 OPS.
His performance continued in the playoffs. In Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, his three-hit, three-run, three-RBI performance, including a home run, helped the Mets take a 13–7 win and a 2–1 series lead. In Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs, Céspedes threw Starlin Castro out at the plate, preserving a then 1–1 tie which the Mets won 4–2. In the sixth inning of Game 3, Céspedes caught the Cubs off-guard by stealing third base. He later scored the go-ahead run when Trevor Cahill's uncaught third strike allowed Michael Conforto to reach base safely.
The World Series started inauspiciously for Céspedes when Kansas City leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar hit Matt Harvey's first pitch to centerfield, and Céspedes misplayed the ball, then booted it into left field, resulting in the first World Series inside-the-park home run since 1929. The Royals would eventually take the series 4-1. For the Series, Céspedes batted .150 with no extra base hits. At the end of the year, he became a free agent.
On January 26, 2016, Céspedes re-signed with the Mets on a 3-year, $75 million contract, with an opt-out after the first season. On April 26, Céspedes came off the bench against the Cincinnati Reds in the 7th inning and hit a first-pitch pinch-hit three-run homer to tie the game at 3. He had previously sat out the last few games due to a lingering leg injury. The Mets eventually won 4-3. His 466 feet (142 m) home run against the Chicago Cubs on June 30 tied for the longest in Citi Field history.
On July 5, Céspedes was named to the National League roster for the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Petco Park, joining teammates Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia and Mets manager Terry Collins, but was later taken off the roster along with Noah Syndergaard due to a injury. In August 2016, Céspedes was criticized for golfing while on the disabled list.
Céspedes currently lives in Manhattan, New York. He has a 6-year-old son, Yoenis Jr., in Cuba, whom he hasn't seen in four years, and is only able to talk to him on the phone. He has tried to get him into the United States. In 2014, Céspedes signed with Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports, a sports agency division of Roc Nation. A proud exotic car owner, Céspedes arrived to 2016 Mets Spring Training with a variety of custom sports cars on display. His collection includes a custom 2016 Ford F-250, 2 custom Polaris Slingshots, a custom Lamborghini Aventador, an Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, and a custom Jeep Wrangler all totaling a little under $1 million. Cespedes also bought a 270-pound hog from a local county fair while at 2016 Mets Spring Training. He reportedly paid $7,000 for it.
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