Is Yoennis Cespedes Essential For The Tigers?

Subtitled: A look at the production of the outfields of the American League

I have been offering up my Motor City Bengals email address for those who have wanted to send me prospects questions, or any other for that matter. I recently got one from a reader, that asked a question about Yoennis Cespedes, and what should happen if he doesn’t sign with the Tigers. It appears that the Tigers have put quite a few eggs in that basket, and now it looks like Cespedes isn’t going to be available until January at least. With some scouts saying that they think Cespedes is almost surely going to be a Tiger, I think some fans have just gotten comfortable with that notion. But it’s far from a sure thing.

Here is the question I got from the reader.

IF THE DETROIT TIGERS DON’T  SIGN CESPEDES ARE THEY GOING TO FIND A WAY SHORE UP THE INFIELD OR OUTFIELD POSITIONS? 3RD BASE, 2ND BASE OR OUTFIELD? -Barron H.

Obviously I hope the answer is yes to all of the above. The Tigers still have all the holes on their team that they started with this off-season with the exception of a 7th inning bullpen guy and a backup catcher. We have touched upon numerous candidates here at Motor City Bengals. But the question led me in another direction essentially. What about our outfield and the need for a premier player out there? Does anybody need Cespedes more than the Tigers that would actually fork over the money to sign him? Now, Cespedes is essentially a prospect, albeit an advanced one. He is still going to have to prove himself in the majors. It’s no guarantee he will be a step up. The Tigers almost have to get him though, as there is a lack of high end talent in the system. Cespedes could provide a potential jolt to an anemic outfield in Detroit.

How anemic is the Detroit outfield though in comparison to the rest of the league?

To answer this, I am going to look at this from a perspective of total WAR provided by Detroit’s outfield in 2011, against the outfield of every American League team and see where they fit. I will have to do it by looking at 2011 stats, and not by what teams outfields’ might look like for 2012. Oakland for example, isn’t going to have one outfielder in 2012 that played for them in 2011. WAR might not be the most flawless statistic, but given it does take into account defense, offense, and base running, I felt this could give the best overall picture. I also will have to take some liberties for guys who might play both infield and outfield by checking the amount of games they played at each spot. In effect, did they play more in the outfield, and do they project to do so in 2012? If so, then they are an outfielder.

Here we go starting with the American League East first.

I’m using Fangraphs for the WAR number.

Boston (Ellsbury, Crawford, Drew)- 9.3 WAR
New York (Swisher, Granderson, Gardner)- 15.9 WAR
Baltimore (Markakis, Jones, Reimold)- 6.6 WAR
Toronto (Thames, Bautista, Rasmus)- 10.0 WAR
Tampa Bay (Jennings, Upton, Joyce)- 10.3 WAR

I did take some liberties here. Drew was hurt most of the year, but he did get 81 games in and was the guy who played the most games out there for the Red Sox. Same for Reimold with the Orioles. Thames got more time than Travis Snider for the Blue Jays, and Bautista played more in RF, and projects to do so this year with Brett Lawrie at 3B. I chose Desmond Jennings over Sam Fuld, despite Fuld actually playing more games. Jennings is the clear starter in LF for the Rays this year, and was playing there every day for the majority of the 2nd half.

Cleveland (Choo, Brantley, Sizemore)- 3.0 WAR
Detroit (Young, Jackson, Boesch)- 4.9 WAR
Chicago (Rios, Pierre, Quentin)- 1.5 WAR
Kansas City (Cabrera, Franceour, Gordon) 14.0 WAR
Minnesota (Revere, Span, Cuddyer) 7.3 WAR

The Central Division is all kinds of messed up. One, Delmon Young played for two Central teams, though he missed time with the Twins, and is going to be the LF for the Tigers so far in 2012, so they got his WAR. Secondly, Cleveland’s two main guys Choo and Sizemore were injured, bringing their WAR number down significantly. Fukudome wouldn’t add much WAR wise, and Matt LaPorta is more of a 1B by trade, so I went with those three regardless of the missed time. Most years that Indians outfield is much more productive. Same with the Twins. Injury made it hard to decipher who I should include. Cuddyer was one for sure, but Span and Revere qualified as the next two guys with the most games. Their outfield will include Josh Willingham in 2012, who played for the A’s in 2011.

L.A. Angels (Wells, Bourjos, Hunter) 7.1 WAR
Oakland (DeJesus, Crisp, Willingham) 6.5 WAR
Seattle (Suzuki, Wells, Gutierrez) 2.8 WAR
Texas (Cruz, Hamilton, Chavez) 7.3 WAR

Seattle was another team that was difficult to decipher. Casper Wells coming over in a trade had more total at bats than other guys like Trayvon Robinson, so I went with Wells. As you can see the division as a whole is somewhat weak in the outfield, with of course the Angels and the Rangers being the best.

After going through all of this, what does it mean to the Tigers and its fans? Maybe not a whole lot, but it is a good comparison of the production that the Tigers are getting from their outfield against the rest of the American League. I think I can safely conclude that there is two outfields worse than Detroit’s in Chicago and Seattle. Cleveland is arguable, simply because over the course of a full season, they are going to get more production than that from Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore.

At the very least, this little exercise confirms the need for some more production from the Tigers outfield, and supports the idea that they should go after Yoennis Cespedes aggressively. There is clearly a need here. I also believe that the Tigers should still pursue Jorge Soler as well, as I wrote in an article earlier. He is much younger, and will take some time, but his tool set has been compared to Bubba Starling, a recent Royals draftee from the 2011 draft. An influx of outfield talent is needed, because there just isn’t much very close to the majors for the Tigers right now in their farm system.

*As always, thanks for any and all questions from readers here at MCB. Please feel free like Barron to send a question or comments to me at [email protected]

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