Yoenis Cespedes registered a single in his first at-bat as a member of the Red Sox. Credit: Getty Images
Power from the outfield positions is something the Red Sox certainly haven’t been known for in recent years. In fact, with the exception of Jacoby Ellsbury’s outlier year of 32 home runs in 2011, no Red Sox outfielder has hit more than 22 home runs in a season since Manny Ramirez in 2006 - when he hit 35 (Jason Bay hit 36 in 2009, but only nine came with the Red Sox).
This trend will likely change with the addition of righty-slugger Yoenis Cespedes, who was acquired from the Oakland Athletics on Thursday in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes.
“We think he will thrive,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “He’s obviously a power bat who hits the ball out to all parts of the park and should benefit from Fenway. He’s going from a ballpark in Oakland that doesn’t help right-handed power hitters quite as much as Fenway does, so we’re excited to have him.”
Cespedes, a 28-year-old Cuba native, is in his third big league season, having belted 23 and 26 homers in his first two seasons. He currently has 17 this season – all while playing his home games at the pitcher-friendly confines of O.co Coliseum. He has also won MLB’s Home Run Derby each of the last two seasons.
“It’s as much raw power as you can find in the game,” manager John Farrell said. “We’ve seen it in-game, rather than being in an exhibition derby type thing. We’re looking forward to seeing him on the field. His middle of the order presence is what we’ve needed to lengthen out our lineup and he provides that.”
In 72 at-bats as a visitor and four in his first game with the Red Sox on Saturday at Fenway, Cespedes has hit just one home run. But with the Green Monster just 310 feet from home plate, that total should rise quickly.
"I know I have some power,” Cespedes said. “I can’t predict the amount of home runs I’m going to hit because when I’m there, I’m not looking to hit a home run, I’m just looking to make hard contact.”
The presence of Cespedes in the lineup, hitting cleanup in between David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, should help the entire Red Sox lineup from top-to-bottom -- evident by Napoli’s home run scoring Cespedes on Saturday.
“Our ability now to lengthen out the lineup with he and Allen Craig gives us that depth that I think has been lacking throughout the course of this season,” Farrell said.
Red Sox outfielders rank last in the American League in sluggling percentage, slugging .343, and last in home runs in all of baseball with 14. These numbers should instantly change with the addition of Cespedes, and Craig for that matter.
Cespedes’ contract expires at the end of next season, but if the Red Sox can re-sign him, he could turn into the best power-hitting outfielder the organization has employed since Ramirez.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter:@RyanHannable