Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has put on some electrifying showcases for scouts in the past couple of months, but his winter ball debut tonight didn't include anything that will go on his highlight reel.
Serving as the DH for the Aguilas Cibaeñas in the Dominican League playoffs, Cespedes went 0-for-3, striking out in his first three plate appearances before getting hit by a pitch in his fourth trip to the plate against the Gigantes del Cibao.
Cespedes showed some patience in his first plate appearance against Astros righthander Erick Abreu, taking the first four pitches to get to 3-1 before fouling off an inside fastball. The next pitch to Cespedes was a breaking ball that he swung through for the strikeout, with the bat flying out of his hands and nearly splintering someone near the third base on-deck circle.
Facing Mets righthander Jeurys Familia in his next at-bat, Cespedes struck out on three straight 95-mph fastballs, watching the first one go by before swinging and missing at the next two. Astros righthander Rhiner Cruz (the top pick in December's Rule 5 draft) recorded Cespedes' third strikeout of the night, getting him to chase an 0-2 breaking ball off the plate. Cespedes did reach base in his final plate appearance when righthander Roman Colon hit him with a 2-1 fastball.
Playing in the Dominican League is a risky move for the 26-year-old Cespedes, who has done plenty to generate interest from teams between his performance in Cuba, his showings over the last two years on the international circuit and most recently in private workouts for teams in the Dominican Republic. While Cespedes has been working out and facing live pitching for teams that have put him through those private workouts, he hasn't played baseball in a competitive game environment (including night games under the lights) since last April when his season with Granma ended in Cuba's Serie Nacional. So while it was a rough debut, there's no reason to put much stock into one game.
Cespedes still is in the process of trying to acquire Dominican residency before Major League Baseball declares him a free agent, the timetable for which is unclear.