A strained hamstring brought Yoenis Cespedes's 2017 to a close -- a season with a lot of the highs and lows and long DL stints that have come to characterize his time with the Mets.
Despite frustrating stretches, including a .665 OPS during the month of July, Cespedes's final line of .292/.352/.540 very closely reflects his overall performance since becoming a Met, and his 17 home runs over 81 games put him on a pace for 34 over a full season -- a tick above his career pace of 32 per 162 games.
Most promisingly, Cespedes proved his .354 OBP in 2016, his best since his rookie year, was no fluke. Since coming to the Mets, he has demonstrated growth beyond the all-or-nothing slugger he seemed to be previously. The Mets invested nine figures in a player they believe is an all-around great hitter. And while there are plenty of concerns about his overall value, at the plate he has been everything the team and the fans could have hoped for.
The big concern has to be how much time Cespedes has spent injured and, moreover, the chronic nature of those injuries. Since the beginning of last season, he has had three separate stints on the disabled list for strained leg muscles, and likely needed at least one more during July 2016 when he spent more than a week on the bench.
Though fortunately these issues do not date back to earlier in his career, they have been a consistent concern since 2016 -- his age- 30 season. As he continues to age, his training routines need to evolve to reflect that fact. And even if they do, he will need more off-days and still may not completely avoid injuries.
And fans and coaches may need to recognize that not all hustle is a net positive. Cespedes' value lies in being healthy enough to hit bombs, not in busting down the basepaths on slow grounders. Yes, a perfect player could do both, but Cespedes is a slugger in his 30s with balky legs. He has proven in his time in New York that he can be an offensive powerhouse, and if dialing back on the baserunning and the web gems is how he stays on the field, it's a tradeoff worth making.
That said, if he's going to play a more conservative game to protect his legs and stay healthy, Cespedes needs to play a clean game as well. While the move from center to left field last year has made a big difference in his defensive value, he has made more than his share of bobbles and misplays that hurt the team. Tightening up his approach in the outfield and reducing mental mistakes can easily balance out a less aggressive style of play in terms of his overall production.
While the abbreviated nature of his season was an enormous disappointment, Cespedes has shown he is every bit the great hitter the Mets acquired. The recurring leg injuries, however, are a red flag, and he needs to be handled carefully over the next three years in order to stay on the field.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring