Yoelqui Cespedes’ Availability and White Sox Interest

The Chicago White Sox have interest in 22-year-old Cuban outfielder Yoelqui Cespedes, who is the brother of Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes.

Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reported last week that Cuban outfielder Yoelqui Cespedes has been deemed an international free agent and is cleared to sign with a club. He’s officially a free agent, but major league scouting operations have ceased due to the COVID-19 pandemic and his status is unclear at the moment.

Cespedes is ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the 2019 international class, according to MLB Pipeline. With the Baltimore Orioles possessing the most bonus pool space in the current period at just over $1.5 million, it’s likely that Yoelqui will wait to sign during the 2020 period that opens on July 2nd. Most teams have significant dollars committed already to the upcoming class, but that seemingly favors him in regards to signing a deal with the largest financial commitment.

The 22-year-old hails from Yara, Granma, Cuba and is listed at 5’9″ and 205 pounds. Cespedes played for his country’s club in the World Baseball Classic and also on Caribbean Series teams in 2017. In Cuba’s Serie Nacional, he suited up for Granma from 2015-2017. The athletic outfielder played on the Cuban National Team in June while participating in the formally Independent Can-Am League and notched three hits in 18 at-bats.

Yoelqui, also known as Yoelkis, has been working out in the Bahamas under the tutelage of his older-half brother and Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. While the younger Cespedes is eligible to sign with a club, he could explore the possibility of entering the draft or even signing a contract in Japan, according to Jesse Sanchez.

It could end up being months before he signs a contract with a major league team, if he decides to go that route. Cespedes was scheduled to workout for clubs this month in Arizona and Florida but with major league scouting prohibited across the industry, that timeline will change with the recent developments.

Some footage from the World Baseball Classic

Some Cuban League footage playing with Granma

Open side Grand Slam Cuban Nacional Series

Cespedes has been described as a “five-tool player” with above-average tools across the board. Yoelqui is short and has been listed anywhere between 5’7″-5″9″ but he’s added 15 pounds of muscle mass since defecting while improving his bat speed and power, according to MLB Pipeline.

The publication also calls him a “plus runner, solid defender and line dive hitter who can spray the ball in the outfield.” His scouting grades rank favorably with a 50 hit tool and 55 power grade. The outfielder is referred to as a 55-grade fielder with a 60-grade arm and speed.

Jesse Sanchez notes that the Cuban star has revamped his swing since his defection and it now looks exactly like that of his older brother. Kiley McDaniel of ESPN recently joined the FutureSox podcast and he spoke favorably about Cespedes during that discussion. The veteran evaluator said that Cespedes should receive a bonus in the “low seven figure range” and though something in the ballpark of $1.5-$2 million seemed reasonable.

McDaniel said that the outfielder is the “bite-sized version of his brother. He has a huge arm but is a smallish guy.” Kiley called him a “tweener” meaning that he may not have the speed to stick in centerfield while also not possessing the power profile to play in a corner. McDaniel also clarified that Cespedes could look much different the next time we see him, however. “These guys defect and disappear for awhile and get into insane shape in advance of workouts for clubs,” said ESPN’s lead prospect writer.

Interest from the White Sox

Sources have indicated to FutureSox that Marco Paddy has always been a fan of Yoelqui Cespedes. The Chicago White Sox have had success on the international market of late with this type of prospect. The organization places a premium on Cuban talent and Cespedes is the next guy waiting for a big league chance.

Earlier this year, the White Sox reached agreement with Cuban right hander Norge Vera for a bonus of $1.5 million. Vera is ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the 2019 international signing class according to MLB Pipeline. The signing won’t become official until the new signing period opens on July 2nd of this year. FutureSox has also learned that the organization’s international scouts were heavily focused on other Cuban talent eligible to sign soon as well.

The White Sox had some level of interest in 16-year-old shortstop Dyan Yamel Jorge, who recently was granted free agency as well. Yamel reached agreement with the Colorado Rockies earlier this month.

The White Sox also have interest in OF/P Oscar Colas who is seeking a big league contract as well. The pursuit of Colas is complicated, though, and resolution to his status doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

The White Sox signed Luis Robert back in 2017 and he’s gone on to become one of the top prospects in the sport. They also reached agreement with 23-year-old Cuban infielder Yolbert Sanchez as part of their 2019 class with a bonus of $2.5 million.

Speculation has been that Yoelqui Cespedes may prefer a quicker path to the major leagues instead of the common practice of taking the biggest bonus amount offered. As the entire industry is currently at a standstill dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic, scouting is on the periphery.

The White Sox are a logical destination for Cespedes due to their extensive history with similar players. They have the bonus pool space in their budget to complete a signing but they also have to decide as an organization how to best utilize their available resources. Stay tuned to FutureSox as we’ll continue to monitor this developing situation.

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