Outfield prospect Yoelqui Cespedes is first-week star of White Sox spring training

Cespedes is No. 2 on Baseball America’s Sox prospect list and No. 4 on MLB Pipeline’s list.

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Yoelqui Cespedes hits during the Arizona Fall League.

Yoelqui Cespedes hits during the Arizona Fall League.

John Antonoff/Chicago White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox prospect Yoelqui Cespedes couldn’t contain that big smile of his.

‘‘I feel so happy,’’ he said.

It was moments after Cespedes had reached out and yanked a home run over the left-field fence Saturday at Camelback Ranch against the Guardians’ Thomas Ponticelli, a Double-A right-hander. Two days earlier, he had homered against the Cubs’ Ben Holmes, a Triple-A left-hander.

On Sunday, Cespedes — playing center field — threw out the Rockies’ Zac Veen trying to advance from first to third on a single. Cespedes’ one-hop throw needed to be perfect, and it was.

Needless to say, the 24-year-old from Cuba has been the star of Sox spring training four days in.

“I feel so happy because I never [thought] I would play this year in spring training,” Cespedes said. “My mind was on the minor leagues, and then I’m playing with the big leagues. Right now, I feel so good.”

The minor leagues is where Cespedes will start the season, and it’s possible he won’t play with major-leaguers again until next spring training. But, like every top prospect with big-league plans and dreams, Cespedes is thinking sooner than later.

“Oh, yeah, yeah,” he said. “I feel really good this year. Last year, I felt the language and the season is a lot different than Cuba. This year, I feel more comfortable here because the pitchers [and] the speed [of the game are] almost the same.”

Credit the Spanish-speaking Cespedes for talking with reporters in English after his homer Saturday. He’s still learning his second language, and it takes courage and confidence to do it in front of microphones and cameras. Translator Billy Russo was alongside to clarify questions, if needed, but it says something about Cespedes’ moxie to handle it on his own.

“He’s very intelligent,” said Ryan Newman, his manager at High-A Winston-Salem last season. “He has got a lot of direction from his [half-]brother [former All-Star Yoenis Cespedes]; they’re very close. He’s very mature, and once he figures it out and makes the adjustment to how the game is played here in the States, we’re going to see him take off.”

Even though Cespedes struggled during the Arizona Fall League, batting .181/.244/.222 in 19 games, most talent evaluators still are buying in. He is No. 2 on Baseball America’s Sox prospect list behind shortstop Colson Montgomery and No. 4 on MLB Pipeline’s list behind Montgomery, outfielder Oscar Colas and infielder Jose Rodriguez.

“Strong engine, big power, special, special player tools-wise,” Sox hitting coordinator Andy Barkett said. “He needs to play in the minor leagues and figure out the strike zone and who he is as a player.”

Manager Tony La Russa, who watched Cespedes play in the Arizona Fall League, scoffed when he was told some scouts weren’t sold on Cespedes just yet.

“Oh, he takes a really good swing,” La Russa said. “He’s very compact, and his explosion is the kind of thing where you get a lot of life off the bat.”

Cespedes is trying to keep his approach simple, looking for a good pitch to hit and letting his athleticism take over. His path to the Sox’ outfield isn’t exactly wide-open, with Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert planted in left and center for years to come and Andrew Vaughn, Gavin Sheets and Adam Engel in the right-field mix. Then there’s Colas and Micker Adolfo among other prospects pushing for a spot.

All Cespedes knows is he leads the Sox in Cactus League homers and outfield assists right now. So what if we’re only four games into the schedule?

Rounding the bases after his homer Saturday, Cespedes was overwhelmed with joy.

“I said to myself, ‘Oh, I did it again!’ “ he said. ‘‘Let’s do it.”

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