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Yoelkis Céspedes is headed to the South Side

World Baseball Classic - Pool B - Game 1 - Cuba v Japan
This is how future White Sox right fielder Yoelkis Céspedes looked at age 19. He’s filled out since then.
Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

The South Side’s right field problems may be solved ... for 2022.

Ben Badler of Baseball America is reporting that the Chicago White Sox have reached a $2 million agreement with Cuban right fielder Yoelkis Céspedes, to be announced at the official start of the international signing period on January 15.

On the offensive side, Céspedes has been the primary White Sox international target for some time now, and it’s believed that his signing would have been announced this past summer if not for the international signing date moving from July to January due to the pandemic.

Céspedes, 23, is the half-brother of Yoenis Céspedes and is a five-tool prospect very much comparable to Yoenis. The key here for right field is the arm, which scouts equate to Yoenis’ cannon.

Beginning at age 17, Céspedes played four years for Alazanes de Granma, where his half-brother played as well. For his 226-game career, Céspedes had 12 homers and 98 RBIs in 226 games and slashing .287/.352/.416. In 2017, In his second and third seasons for the Alazanes, Céspedes was the right fielder on title-winning teams, the first of which broke a 40-year streak of futility for the boys from Granma.

Concerned about Céspedes’ relative lack of pop in Cuba? Well, first of all, he was a decade younger than league average in the Cuban National Series. And it’s been reported that since leaving Cuba, Céspedes has put on (get ready for it) like 20 pounds of muscle.

In other words, don’t be concerned about the power game.

If you’re thinking that Céspedes is sounding like the last Cuban superstar the White Sox signed internationally, Luis Robert, you wouldn’t be wrong. Céspedes has played some center field, which says he has plus speed. As a young player still getting his feet under him, though, Céspedes is raw; his baserunning and approach to off-speed pitches will need considerable sharpening.

So let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Céspedes is most definitely not solving the gaping hole in right field on the South Side in 2021. Perhaps not even 2022. But the budding superstar could well leap immediately into the top five of White Sox prospects, and almost certainly to the head of the line among all White Sox outfield prospects, even fellow right fielders Micker Adolfo and Blake Rutherford.

For all the talk of Oscar Colás, Céspedes is considered the brighter prospect. And our friend on the Cuban side paints a pretty bright immediate future for him: