White Sox OF prospect Yoelqui Cespedes ‘in better position’ in 2022
“Nothing has changed in regards to our excitement for what he can do,” White Sox assistant GM Chris Getz said.
Yoelqui Cespedes is the White Sox’ second-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline, has a name that’s instantly recognized because of family ties and he possesses a good enough assortment of tools to allow you to envision him being a fixture in the Sox outfield one day.
But he is far from being a finished product, and not nearly close enough to have his name thrown in the Sox’ somewhat fuzzy right field mix for 2022.
That’s not how Cespedes, who at 24 is the same age as Luis Robert, sees it, however.
“My approach and my mindset right now is to get to the majors this year,” Cespedes said Thursday though translator Billy Russo from the Sox training complex in Glendale, Ariz. “But not just to get there and be demoted. I want to get there and stay there. That’s the plan. That is where my focus is right now. That is why I’m working hard, to accomplish that. That is the mindset right now.”
After signing as an international free agent for a $2.05 million bonus in early 2021, Cespedes — a half brother to two-time All-Star and Gold Glove outfielder Yoenis Cespedes — had to wait through visa issues to get his feet on the ground last season. At Advanced A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, Cespedes hit a combined .285/.350/.463 with eight homers and 27 RBI in 72 games. His swing and miss tendencies were apparent with 83 strikeouts, and when the Sox gave him a look-see in the Arizona Fall League, he had 13 hits with two walks in 80 plate appearances.
Not everyone is as high on Cespedes as MLB Pipeline and other prospect evaluators. Keith Law, citing pitch recognition challenges at Double-A Birmingham, has him 12th among Sox prospects despite his big power potential and arm strength. Some scouts at the Fall League want to see what Cespedes does this season.
Manager Tony La Russa, who watched Cespedes at the Fall League, was quick to challenge unfavorable evaluations of him, and Sox director of player development Chris Getz remains sold.
“Nothing has really changed in regards to our excitement for what he’s able to do,” Getz said. “He’s got solid tools across.
“In regards to some adjustments he needs to make, I’d say it’s really being under control in the box, being more selective. There are certain types of pitches right now he tends to want to chase and even miss. We need to tighten that focus a little bit, keep him under control.”
It’s not an unusual place to be on a minor league hitter’s path to the majors.
“Based on the work that he puts in and the conversations we have on a daily basis, I think he’s going to be able to close those gaps and make the proper adjustments for future success,” Getz said.
Cespedes, meanwhile, said he sees positives in whatever struggles he has encountered. It’s about being more patient at the plate and putting in the work.
“That is the mindset right now,” he said.
“It’s good to have struggles in the minors and work you way out of them, because that’s going to put you in a better position to get out of those bad moments when you are in the majors. Definitely, I’m in a better position for this year.”