Cespedes and Canseco: Rookie Seasons


The year was 1986 and Jose Canseco, in his official rookie season, was a superstar in the making at age 22. He belted 33 home runs and knocked in 117 RBIs on what was a rather dismal 3rd place A’s team. He also had a .775 OPS to go along with 15 stolen bases. This overshadowed the fact that he struck out 175 times that season and batted .240 on the year in 157 games. But, by the end of the season he became a fan favorite and opposing teams had begun to take notice as well. He won AL Rookie of the Year. Two years later he was MVP. Three years later he was a World Series champion on the A’s 1989 team. He even had Madonna on his lap. He had arrived in style and had a successful career – at least with the A’s. Now nearly 25 years later the A’s have another outfielder with similar traits.

Oct 7, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Oakland Athletics left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52) at bat during game two of the 2012 ALDS against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Yoenis Cespedes, 26, officially latched on with the A’s on February 13th, 2012 and was unveiled a few weeks later on March 4th during Spring Training. He was summoned to the big show with a multi-million dollar contract in hand and high expectations that followed. Remember, the A’s made this surprise signing after they had traded their three best pitchers (Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Andrew Bailey). Furthermore, they had just committed to Coco Crisp on a pricey multi-year deal to man center field. To justify his signing and contract Cespedes would truly have to have a Rookie of the Year type of season.

He proved himself capable of handling the adjustment as he bypassed the A’s minor league system completely. He had an immediate impact in Japan where he homered against the Mariners during their season opening series. By the end of 2012 Cespedes had rewarded the A’s faith with a .292 batting average and 82 RBIs. He went on to crush 23 home runs and post a .356 on base percentage in 129 games. Defensively he was able to play center field and left field. He proved to be a true 5-tool player with tremendous upside. Despite missing some time with injury, Cespedes was 2nd overall in Rookie of the Year Voting. While we will never know what Cespedes’ final stat line would be had he been healthy the entire year, with the use of a formula we can make some projections to serve the purpose of comparing the rookie seasons of Canseco and Cespedes.

Canseco played in 157 games in his rookie year and compiled impressive power numbers (well they were REALLY impressive before the syringe pile was uncovered). Cespedes, however, missed 33 games. Therefore, in order to complete this rookie season comparison we can make some final projections by tabulating a 162 game stat line that theoretically would have been derived based on them both playing each and every game.

For example: Cespedes actually hit 23 homers in 129 games, or once every 5.61 games. Therefore, over 162 games, using a ratio of 1 homer in every 5.61 games, Cespedes would hit 28.88 homers for the year. Canseco actually hit 33 homers in 157 games, or once every 4.76 games. Therefore, over 162 games, using a ratio of 1 homer in every 4.76 games, Canseco would hit 34.051 homers for the year.

Projected Home Runs over 162 Games Played

Canseco                                 34.051

Cespedes                                28.884

Projected RBIs over 162 Games Played


Canseco                                 120.726

Cespedes                                102.977

Projected Hits over 162 Games Played

Canseco                                  148.586

Cespedes                               178.326

Projected Extra Base Hits over 162 Games Played

Canseco                                  65.006

Cespedes                               66.558

Projected Strike Outs over 162 Games Played

Canseco                                  180.573

Cespedes                               128.093


Projected SB over 162 Games Played

Canseco                                  15.48

Cespedes                               20.09


At Bats Per Home Run

Canseco                                 20.67

Cespedes                                21.17

At Bats Per Strikeouts

Canseco                                  3.897

Cespedes                               4.774

Slugging %

Canseco                                  .457

Cespedes                               .505

OPS (OBP in parenthesis)

Canesco                                  .775 (.318)

Cespedes                               .861 (.356)

Batting Average

Canseco                                  .240

Cespedes                               .292

The above analysis over 162 games shows that Canseco had a little more home run power and drove in more runs. In nearly every other category a healthy Cespedes would have come out ahead. In fact, Cespedes had a dramatically better batting average and OPS. If healthy, Cespedes also would surprisingly out-steal Canseco, who went on to swipe 40 bags in 1988. Cespedes also clearly posted a significantly better strike out ratio. Canseco would have struck out a whopping 180 times had he played 162 games.

If it wasn’t for Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera having truly phenomenal years there is no reason to dismiss that a healthy Cespedes, playing in 162 games, would contend for not only Rookie of the Year honors, but maybe even garner some 2nd or 3rd place MVP votes (not win MVP, necessarily). His 162 game statline would have been: .292 average, 28-29 home runs, 102 RBI’s, .861 OPS, 20 SB, and .505 slugging. And all of this on a 1st place A’s team as compared to Trout’s 3rd place Angels team. His success truly contributed to the team finishing in 1st place in the division.

May 17, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; Worcester Tornadoes infielder Jose Canseco (left) moves out of the way of a pitch during the game against the Newark Bears at Bears

In closing, Cespedes actually had a better rookie year than Canseco in many ways. As a fan I am excited to declare the obvious: Cespedes is not the 2nd coming of Jose Canseco, he’s better. Before Jose Canseco was, well, Jose Canseco on Steroids, he was actually an extremely successful and popular player with the A’s in the 1980’s. Canseco was phenomenal in his first 4 years in the league. Like Canseco, hopefully Cespedes will have an MVP under his belt along with a World Series ring – with the A’s – in 4 years as well. Knowing that Cespedes over 162 games would have bettered Canseco’s statistics in several aspects, his future looks bright and hopefully he can have a long and healthy career.

After all, Canseco is still being paid to play baseball at age 48 (no seriously, see here).