ASG debate: Cespedes or Hanley in OF for AL?
Pair among top candidates for Midsummer Classic after Boston's offseason overhaul
We will be doing daily ASG debates until balloting ends on July 2. We will frequently be pitting one player against another and have a writer make a case for one of them, but that doesn't mean there aren't other great candidates for that position. In fact, your comments could spark a new debate for us to tackle. So let us know what you think.
In the span of 4 1/2 months, the Red Sox traded for Yoenis Cespedes to be their left fielder, signed Hanley Ramirez to be their left fielder and traded Cespedes to be somebody else's left fielder. So, eventually, they made their decision.
All-Star voters might have to make a similar decision, albeit one unaffected by free-agent timetables. One would assume that Mike Trout is an early front-runner for an American League outfield spot, and Adam Jones, Josh Reddick, Michael Brantley, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon and Jacoby Ellsbury, just to name a few, have all logged strong cases in the early action.
But the ballot also includes two familiar faces in new places who might be worth a long look -- Ramirez and Cespedes.
So who has the early edge?
Well, Hanley's case was obviously hindered by him crashing into the Green Monster last Monday. He sprained his left shoulder and didn't return to Boston's lineup until Saturday. That's the same shoulder Ramirez had surgically repaired at the end of the 2011 season.
That Monster moment was actually viewed as a positive by the Red Sox -- at least, in terms of the rare aggressiveness Ramirez showed on the play. But the fact remains that Ramirez rates as a minus on the defensive end.
Fortunately, Hanley's bat more than makes up for that fact. Shoulder issue aside, Ramirez has been one of the stars of the early schedule, entering the week with a .894 OPS with 22 RBIs. All 10 of his extra-base hits were home runs. Ramirez has limited his strikeouts, displayed pure power and been everything the Red Sox hoped for in the middle of their lineup when they signed him to a four-year, $88 million contract. His 10 April homers tied a franchise record.
"That guy, man," teammate David Ortiz said of Ramirez near the end of April. "It's crazy the way he hits the ball, how hard he hits it, isn't it? Oh my goodness. Reminds me of my younger days."
Cespedes hits the ball pretty darn hard as well. We've seen that on the national stage.
One would assume, whether you vote for him or not, Cespedes will be on hand at Great American Ball Park to vie for his third straight Home Run Derby crown (Cespedes participated in and won his first Derby, in 2013, despite not being on the AL All-Star squad). It's a beautiful thing to watch Cespedes take that glorified round of batting practice.
Of course, that sweet BP swing hasn't always translated to the games, and Cespedes is off to a slower homer pace than Ramirez. Cespedes' offensive numbers with the Tigers, for whom he bats in the middle of a lethal lineup, haven't been quite as dynamic as Hanley's, though they are certainly strong -- a .274/.300/.476 slash line, with four homers, a league-high 11 doubles, one triple and 17 RBIs.
Cespedes, though, is the more complete player of the two. His arm is a major outfield asset, as his glovework is solid. Sometimes he doesn't even need a glove.
The Tigers have been pleased with what they landed in Cespedes.
"When you look at him from the other side, he looks like he's almost kind of mean," manager Brad Ausmus told reporters recently. "But he's really kind of a fun-loving guy."
And the Red Sox are, of course, equally happy with Ramirez.
When it comes to debating the merits of each outfielder's All-Star appeal, Cespedes has the edge in Wins Above Replacement because of his complete play. But let's face it: We're enamored with power, and Ramirez's early homer barrage probably gives him the edge for now.