Cuban-defectee Yoennis Cespedes is living in the Dominican Republic right now, as is often the case for escaped Cubans looking to play baseball. New Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is taking a break from the search for a manager to personally scout Cespedes, and see if he fits into Boston's 2012 plans.
How could Cespedes work in Boston? If everything that is supposedly known about him is true, then he is a power-hitting outfielder who is capable of playing defense in center. That is a lovely combination, as Jacoby Ellsbury's 2011 season reminds you, and, like Ellsbury, Cespedes is still young, at 26 years old.
The age is an important factor, for one key reason. Cuba's national team is generally excellent, but it's an All-Star team of the very best the country has to offer. We shouldn't be surprised at their talent. The Cuban league as a whole is less talented -- it's good baseball, but for reference, it's somewhere around the New York-Penn League in terms of comparison. This is why someone like Kendrys Morales struggled upon coming to the states, as he was 23 years old, coming from a league that faced opponents with the talent level of the Lowell Spinners to one where 2006 AL Cy Young winner Johan Santana was striking out 265 batters in 233 innings. After a few years, Morales had a huge spring, and continued his breakout, finally delivering on the promise everyone saw in him when he was available, much like Cespedes is today.
Cespedes will be in his age-26 season in 2012, as his birthday is in October. He might not be an immediate dominating force despite his talent -- it is a jarring talent switch, as was mentioned -- but chances are also good he won't take as long to come around as Morales, who struggled to make his mark for three years in the majors despite some success in the minors.
The ceiling of Cespedes is considered to be much higher than that of the two right field options Boston currently possesses, Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish, though it isn't a guarantee he pans out. Then again, it's not guarantee Reddick or Kalish can hold down the right field job in 2012, as Kalish missed almost all of 2011 due to injury following a 2010 when he proved his bat wasn't ready for the majors, and Reddick, while productive overall, is still very inconsistent. Personally, I think Reddick can be above-average out there thanks to the combination of his defense and bat, and Kalish can be, too, but probably not until 2013. I don't know anything about Cespedes besides what everyone else knows -- there is a lot of talent there, and he dominated Cuban ball.
Cespedes will want a major league contract, and the Red Sox have a spot for him in right field if they want to hold Reddick and Kalish in the minors once again, or trade one of them to help them acquire pitching this winter. Center field is his preference, but it has been reported through agent Adam Katz that a corner outfield spot isn't a deal breaker, so long as he's a major leaguer in 2012. Boston has the money to match anyone else attempting to get Cespedes, they have the roster spot available, and they have the backup in either Reddick or Kalish to back up Cespedes in the outfield, should he prove to be ultimately unready for the bigs, like some of his countrymen before him in their inaugural campaigns.