For some, 2016 Spring Training marks the start of a brand new Major League Baseball season. For others, this time of year marks the height of the presidential primary elections. While many pontificate over who is best suited to lead the country, The Sports Fan Journal fam decided to take a look at which player, manager, or front office member is the best candidate to lead their team to the top of the baseball mountain.
Yoenis Cespedes might have figured it all out. This is terrible news for the rest of the National League.
This is terrible news because he hasn’t figured it out like, “oh, sweet, my pet dog knows to not crap on the carpet.” He’s figured it out like, “oh, shoot, my pet tiger knows it can eat people.”
Cespedes has always performed well in the brightest lights. He does it big in home run derbies, he’s always hit well in the postseason, and his arrival in New York at last season’s trade deadline put him under the brightest lights in the baseball world. Tasked with carrying the Mets back to glory after the team had long toiled in the clutches of mediocrity – Cespedes did not disappoint.
In 57 games with the Mets, La Potencia crushed 17 home runs, 14 doubles, four triples and drove in 44 runs, all while posting an on base percentage 18 points above his career average, and a slugging percentage over 100 points above his career average.
Look no further than his collection of exotic cars and his gaudy number 52 chain to find a symbol of Cespedes’s flair for the dramatic. Being back in the largest market in sports, he will have the opportunity to provide the spark for another deep postseason run.
His free agent courtship did take awhile as the 30-year-old searched for a monster contract that would carry him well past his prime years. Eventually, he signed back with New York and will once again have the burden of driving the team’s offense placed squarely on his shoulders. There’s little doubt he will be equal to the task.
Cespedes entered the league four years ago and immediately made an impact at the Big League level. However, his impact was slightly muted when you considered his potential. Fans could see this guy had superstar potential, but he couldn’t quite break that barrier. Now, heading into his fifth season, Cespedes seems ready to take that next step.
The Mets will need him to do just that. For the most part, the Mets stood pat in the offseason. They did lose Daniel Murphy but replaced him with Neil Walker. That move is mostly lateral. That leaves Cespedes as the major difference between last season’s Mets Opening Day lineup and this year’s.
Will he come in and carry his torrid 17 homers in 57 game pace he burst onto the scene into New York with? It’s difficult to put anything past this guy, so probably not. But saying, “no” outright is probably a little foolish.
As Juan Lagares struggles to find his way in the Majors, Cespedes will likely be tasked with playing a lot of centerfield for New York. As a left fielder, Cespedes is outstanding. As a centerfielder, he’s right about average. There will probably be some big deal made about this at some point, but Cespedes is a fine outfielder and can handle center. If he rakes like he’s supposed to, all the Mets will need is average defense from him.
There was talk of Cespedes winning the NL MVP award during his tear in New York last season. Chances are, despite the Cubs slew of young talent and Bryce Harper taking over as the top player in the NL, Cespedes will be right there in the MVP conversation come August and September. It may seem outlandish, but all signs point to a huge year from him.
This is a guy who has an opt out in his contract, so another outstanding year could net him big money if he chooses free agency. Not to mention his propensity for taking his game to new heights as the moment grows.
The 2016 season is the biggest moment of Cespedes’ career as he gets set to be the face of a team that so desperately wants to replicate their success from a season ago while they still have the most dominant rotation in baseball intact.
The Mets timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as they handed Cespedes the keys to an offense just in time for him to figure out how to drive it.
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