Who currently has the highest wins above replacement (WAR) total on the Tigers, according to FanGraphs? If you said Miguel Cabrera, you are right! However, someone else is not too far below him. Yoenis Cespedes is at 2.4 WAR, 0.6 WAR behind Cabrera's 3.0 WAR. No one else on the Tigers is above 2.0 WAR.
Cespedes is currently hitting .310/.344/.508 with nine home runs, 34 runs batted in and a 135 wRC+. Aside from his high batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .367, which has caused a higher overall batting average than normal, none of his other stats are that far off his career averages. He is on pace for 23 home runs and 89 RBI, which are in line with his career marks. He currently has a 5.4 percent walk rate and a 21.6 percent strikeout rate this season, while his career walk and strikeout rates are 6.4 and 21 percent, respectively. Finally, his isolated power (ISO) is at .198 while his career mark is at .201.
What separates Cespedes' season apart from his other seasons is his situational hitting. Since moving to the cleanup spot permanently on May 27, Cespedes his hitting .356/.397/.576 with four home runs in 17 games. It makes sense for Cespedes to be hitting in this spot since he is thriving with men on base. With runners on base, he is hitting .305/.327/.505 with five home runs in 113 plate appearances. Only Miguel Cabrera has better numbers in such situations with significant playing time. And in high leverage situations, Cespedes is hitting a cool .385/.407/.615 in 27 plate appearances, better production than any of the other Tiger regular players, even Miguel Cabrera. While these numbers are not predictive of future performance, it's nice to see a player succeed in situations where few Tiger hitters are succeeding.
The other big contributor to WAR is defense, and Cespedes is having his best defensive season yet. In 519 innings playing left field, Cespedes has nine defensive runs saved (DRS) and an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of 6.7 runs saved. He is not only on pace to exceed the 12 DRS and 10.1 UZR from last year, but his DRS is one run better than Gold Glover Alex Gordon for best among left fielders. Cespedes' UZR is also tops among left fielders. His Revised Zone Rating -- the percentage of plays made in a player's "zone" -- is in the middle of the pack, at .906. However, Cespedes has made 48 plays "out of zone," which is more than any other left fielder by a wide margin.
Cespedes has quietly had a very good season, mainly because he has been overshadowed. Overshadowed by Miguel Cabrera on his own team and by the entire Royals' roster in the All-Star voting. This is a shame, because not only is Cespedes worthy of going to the All-Star Game, but a good argument can be made that he should be starting. His fWAR is slightly better than Alex Gordon's for best among all leftfielders and only Mike Trout has a better fWAR among all American League outfielders.