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December 19, 2011

Future Shock

Exclusive First Look: Yoenis Cespedes Encore

by Kevin Goldstein

Last month, the Yoenis Cespedes video took the world by storm, so imagine my excitement when Edgar Mercedes, the producer of the video and president of the Born To Play Academy in the Dominican Republic, e-mailed me this week to let me know that the sequel was finished and would be available soon. To be fair, Mercedes and his group have had a wonderful sense of humor about the video and the fallout, and he relayed some basic information to me in a phone call. The new video is 28 minutes, is more baseball-related, includes video from Cespedes' heavily-attended showcase, as well as some private workouts and “a surprise at the end.”

Getting away from the fun, Mercedes also told me that he is hoping Cespedes will have his Dominican residency taken care of in the coming days. The latest delay stems from a photo snafu: front and side shots of Cespedes, submitted to the Dominican government for processing purposes, feature the outfielder wearing different clothes, which is not allowed. Unfortunately, Dominican residency is just the first bit of a three-part process. Next, he'll have to be cleared by Major League Baseball, which should take another two to three days, and because Cespedes is Cuban, the United States government gets involved, as he has to be cleared to sign by OFAC, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, a division of the treasury office. United States businesses and individuals are not allowed to enter into any business arrangements (including baseball contracts) with Cuban companies or individuals under current law, so distinguishing Cespedes as a Dominican could take an additional 10-15 days after MLB declares him a free agent. That pushes the opening of his signing window into January, but interest remains sky high, so he'll certainly be signed in time for spring training. Cespedes is “anxious. He says he wants to play baseball for real,” relays Mercedes. “He wants to play in a game that counts for something.”

For now, all we have is video. Thinking about prominent indie filmmakers, Wes Anderson took a step backward in his second film with Rushmore, while Paul Thomas Anderson created a masterpiece with Boogie Nights. Where will Mercedes go? Let's watch together. The diary you watch was kept during my first viewing of the video, as I want to be as surprised as you.

0:00: As always, we start with the credits, and the logos of Mercedes' Born To Play Acadamy and Christopher Wray's Cyntergy Fitness. Interestingly enough, gone is the logo for Adam Katz's Wasserman Media, the agency that will handle Cespedes' US negotiation. After some quick pictures of Cespedes, including one of him wearing the tightest shirt in the history of mankind, we get going.

0:41: The Star Wars words are back! Excellent. Mercedes knows what works. He knows what we want, and how to deliver it. This time, while lacking the amazing voice of Kevin Cabral, we get a personal message from Yoenis. The message is addressed to "Teams, Coaches, Staff and GMs," which makes sense, but the message also goes out to “Legends,” which can be loosely translated in a variety of fashions. Bob Dylan, this one's for you. It's actually a very humble note from Cespedes about how he's not yet arrived and how far he still needs to go.

1:30: The Big Leagues Come to Cespedes! First up, the Miami Marlins. Is this a hint? Cespedes is a perfect fit for a team that has no real center fielder, is in a city with a large Cuban community, and is spending money like a terminally ill gambler who has been teleported to Las Vegas. The very first shot is Cespedes with Marlins owner Jeff Loria and new manager Ozzie Guillen. How am I not supposed to read into this? Is this letting us know Miami is in the lead, or is it a sell job to get Cespedes there? We'll know next month.

Then there's the Red Sox, as Cespedes stands with hitting coach Dave Magadan. Based on sources who have seen some of the workouts in the last month, Cespedes' bat is the only question mark, so it makes sense for Boston to send Magadan.

Hall of Famer Pat Gillick, who still advises the Phillies, is up next, and it basically looks like Cespedes had his own Winter Meetings without having to fly to Dallas. Of course, he still can't go to Dallas legally, but I digress.

Willie Horton is up next. The graphic tells us he was with the 1968 Tigers. A Tigers media guide tells me he's a special assistant to Dave Dombrowski.

Finally we get actual—albeit brief and shaky—video of Cespedes taking batting practice under the title of “Workout for Chicago Cubs GM and Staff.” There, in the corner, in silhouette only, is Theo Epstein. It's important to note who sent who to see Cespedes. The Cubs and the Marlins clearly came with big entourages and big names, but let's face it: A few days in Santiago beats December in the Midwest. Does Theo being there mean the Cubs are more interested than the Tigers? Easy to read into, hard to say.

2:06: Quote Time! As Peter Gammons tells you Cespedes is real, we see the outfielder stroke an RBI single in the World Baseball Classic against Mexico. I (!) tell you Cespedes has power and speed as he crushes a home run against South Africa. Jesse Sanchez tells you Yoenis is humble as he goes oppo against Australia.

3:33: Pro Day. This was the big showcase in the Dominican that every interested party attended. Every player except Cespedes is in white; he's in black so you can always find him. There are 200 scouts in attendance, and we see them all. I do a lot of freeze frames to see who I recognize. The first face in the crowd nearly everyone will recognize is Tony Pena.

4:48: Yoenis Goes to the Beach: Oh yeah, workout time. Not only that, but it's the return of former NFL star Ahman Green! Mercedes explained last month that Green is a friend of Cespedes' trainers and was brought in to help motivate the outfielder, but it's still weird to see the footballer. Exercises named after animals happen on the beach. Frog jumps, bear crawls, and behind the player is a girl who is either jumping with Cespedes, or doing failed handstands in the water. Either way, she steals the show.

5:40: The Jump: Mercedes makes his first editing gaffe, inserting the scene from the first video of Cespedes' ridiculous vertical leaping ability. Did Coppola throw scenes from The Godfather into The Godfather II? No, he did not, and there's a good reason for that. But wait, there is Cespedes setting a new personal best of 50 inches. I have problems going up 50 inches of stairs, so I'm impressed. You know what an even bigger highlight is? When the dude in the cap goes for a high-five and Cespedes totally leaves him hanging.

6:33: Field Work: You know what the best part of watching Cespedes run 60 yards in 6.41 seconds is? Watching him get ready to do it for 53 seconds. He kicks, bends, and stretches more than an Olympic sprinter, and we get every agonizing second of it. Manny Acta and Ozzie Guillen like what they see. Then I notice that above Cespedes' number, where you'd expect his name, is just his nickname, “La Potencia” (The Potential). Hubris. The video of the first-to-third speed drill is equally agonizing; the drill takes seconds, but again we are treated to nearly a minute of Cespedes pacing before it. It's not Boogie Nights as much as it's Magnolia, or as Salieri said in Amadeus, “too many notes.” The best thing about the vertical reach is not just the distance, but the comparisons to NBA stars. We have a sleeper in this year's dunk contest. I have no idea why anyone needs to watch Cespedes warm up to throw for 90 seconds, but his actual throwing drills are impressive, and show why his arm has earned 60-plus grades from scouts this winter.

13:30: Hitting: That's right folks, once again, you have to wait 810 seconds to get a good look at Yoenis hitting. Obviously, Mercedes and his team are only going to show the highlights from his batting practice session at Estadio Cibao, where the professional team in Santiago plays, but those highlights include some mammoth shots, with one home run leaving the stadium at a Mercedes-estimated 500-plus feet. Some scouts have put a 70 grade on Cespedes' power, and it is easy to see why. There is also evidence of some of the length and lunging in his swing that some are concerned about. It's hard to find a scout who has thrown a plus grade on Cespedes' hit tool, but even at 50, it's his lowest score of the five. Listed only as a right-handed hitter, Cespedes hits lefty at the 20:30 mark, accompanied by the graphic, “No He Didn't!” which tells me these guys watch ESPN News way too much. It's ugly, but on his fourth swing, the slugger hits a home run. Yes, these videos have been a blast, but at the same time, it's hard not to be impressed. What is most appreciated is that after the criticism of the lack of baseball last time, the viewer gets 10 minutes of hitting. I now know what Cespedes looks like, and feel that if I just saw an outline of his swing, I could identify the player.

24:02: The Credits: No new names at “Team Cespedes,” but as the video says “The End,” I look down and see there are still four minutes remaining. Last time we got dancing, we got Mom, we got roasting pigs in a Lynchian triptych of joy. Clearly Mercedes was up to something...

24:26: Epilogue: The Jarabacoa River. A rope. Men swimming. Yoenis Cespedes is a hero. Ahman Green's life is an danger, and there is a cliffhanger more alluring than who shot J.R.? I can't ruin it for you; it needs to been seen to be believed.

While not nearly as entertaining, Mercedes' latest contribution to the world of scouting video is certainly more informative. We have a much better feel for the player, and the ending is truly Mercedes' best work. I present to you, in all its glory, Yoenis Cespedes Encore.

Yoenis Cespedes Encore from Baseball2011DR on Vimeo.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  Yoenis Cespedes,  The Who,  First Month

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