While Mike Trout took all the AL Rookie of the Year accolades and sabermetricians’ hearts in 2012, Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes mounted a quieter yet still impressive runner-up campaign upon hitting the big leagues. The 27-year-old Cuban free agent led Oakland in batting average and knocked in 23 homers and 82 RBI despite playing just 129 games.
However, Cespedes has slumped thus far in spring training, recording a mere .194 batting average as of Tuesday evening. This after starting off hot early in 2011 on his way to earning a $36 million contract.
“Last year I was only in Spring Training for about 15 days,” Cespedes told MLB.com’s Jane Lee through his translator. “It was my first year, I didn’t know if I could play, and I tried to put out the best of what I had. This year, everyone knows I can play baseball, so I can slow down a little bit.”
Athletics manager Bob Melvin seemed none too concerned when asked about his struggles at the plate in these exhibition contests, noting that Cespedes is attempting to stay more even-keeled in the long marathon that is the MLB season. Oakland will need his bat to remain active deep into the season given the team’s typical offensive outlook.
Last year, Cespedes’ .292 batting average surpassed his teammates’ by miles. Outfielder Coco Crisp ranked second on the team among players who had totaled 400-plus at-bats, mustering a .259 mark. Suffice to say, Oakland will likely need continued progression from Cespedes to put together consistently potent offense.