Cuba has not been a traditional breeding ground for major league stars, but the recent defections of Yoenis Cespedes, Aroldis Chapman and Yasiel Puig has changed that over the last couple years. Puig in particular became a star after being called up by the Los Angeles Dodgers in June of 2013, and fantasy baseball owners that were able to add him ended up with a multi-category contributor (.319, 19 home runs, 42 RBI and 11 stolen bases).
Puig and Cespedes are both likely to be among the first 10-15 outfielders drafted in mixed leagues, but is one a better fantasy option than the other for 2014?
The Case For Yasiel Puig
Puig’s initial pace last season (.436 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in his first 26 games-101 at-bats) was obviously not sustainable, and he hit .273 while maintaining a high strike out rate (22.5 percent) after the All-Star break. He did hit 11 home runs during the second half of the season, which helped offset the fact he was thrown out five times in 11 steal attempts over that stretch.
Puig’s BABIP (.383) from last season is unlikely to be repeated in 2014, and his contact rate (74.6 percent) also leaves his batting average vulnerable to a decline. But otherwise 25-30 home runs is a virtual certainty over a full season, and if he can improve his stolen base success even marginally 20-25 steals are possible.
The Case for Yoenis Cespedes
Cespedes started slowly in 2013, with a .223 batting average through the end of May, as a left hand issue led to a disabled list stint in April. Various other injuries (hamstring, left wrist, right shoulder) affected him after that point, but his home run and RBI totals (26 HR, 80 RBI) were similar to 2012 (23 home runs, 82 RBI).
Cespedes’ batting average (.240) and stolen base total (seven) both dropped compared to his first season with Oakland in 2012 (.292 and 16 respectively), but a drop in BABIP (.274 in 2013; .326 in 2012) helps explain the average drop and the lingering injuries he battled may have sapped some of Cespedes’ effectiveness on the bases.
Puig is likely to have an advantage over Cespedes in stolen bases this year, based on more opportunities and better success. But I think the two Cuban outfielders will otherwise put up similar stat lines, with a batting average around .280, 25-30 home runs, 80-85 RBI and 60-70 runs scored.
If this choice comes down to return on draft day investment, and it can be argued if it should or shouldn’t, I lean toward Cespedes since there’s a good chance Puig will be drafted a round too early based on name recognition.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.