The White Sox have agreed to a $2MM bonus with outfielder Yoelki Cespedes, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports. The deal will be official on January 15 when the 2020-21 international signing window (delayed from last July 2 due to the pandemic) opens.
As the half-brother of former All-Star Yoenis Cespedes, the 23-year-old Yoelki carries some notable family ties and a lot of potential. MLB Pipeline ranks Cespedes first in its list of 2020-21 int’l prospects, noting that he has put on “at least 15 pounds of muscle” for “more power and explosive bat speed.” Cespedes has recently overhauled his swing to closely resemble his brother at the plate. Pipeline’s scouting grades (on the 20-80 scale) indicate five-tool potential for Cespedes, with a 50 grade for his hitting being the lowest score — his fielding and power earned 55s, while his running and throwing arm earned 60s.
Not all scouts are quite this optimistic about Cespedes (as we observed back in March when Cespedes was declared a free agent), though naturally more recent evaluations on Cespedes aren’t really available given how the pandemic curtailed scouting activity for months. Obviously the White Sox felt comfortable enough in Cespedes’ ceiling to give him $2MM, one of the higher bonuses given to any player in the 2020-21 international class.
As Badler notes, with Cespedes’ deal now taking up much of the available space in Chicago’s international signing pool, the White Sox could be out of the running for Oscar Colas after previously being rumored to have interest in the outfielder. Colas’ availability was tied up in a dispute with Japan’s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks for months, and while that dispute was recently settled, there hasn’t yet been any word on whether or not MLB has officially made Colas a free agent. It could be that the Sox simply decided to allot their int’l funds towards a player they already knew was available rather than continue to wait on Colas.
Over four seasons in the Serie Nacional, Cespedes hit .287/.352/.416 with 12 homers over 803 PA, beginning in Cuba’s top league as a 17-year-old. He also played for Cuba during the 2017 World Baseball Classic, as the youngest member of the team’s roster.