A former Rule 5 draft pick, the 25-year old Everth Cabrera has been on fantasy owner’s radars for the past few years. However, he’s never lived up to the potential and found himself banished to the minor leagues for the majority of 2011 (he got just 8 AB for the Padres). Now, the team once again is primed to find out if Cabrera can actually be a player for them, or if he is all flash and no sizzle.
The team released Orlando Hudson and a trip to the DL is likely the only thing separating Jason Bartlett from a similar future. In the NL West basement, and already basically out of contention, it makes sense to finally find out exactly what Cabrera could bring to the table.
There is no doubt that Cabrera has potentially elite speed, something the Padres will look to take advantage. Back in 2008 (the year before he was selected in the Rule 5 draft), he stole 73 bases in 479 AB at Single-A. While he hasn’t reached those numbers in the subsequent seasons, he did have 29 SB in 246 AB at Triple-A last season. That’s a 50+ SB pace if he had been healthy the entire season. This year he picked up right where he left off, swiping 15 bases in 144 AB prior to his recall.
When it comes to Cabrera, the real question is whether or not he can get on base enough to utilize his speed. Over his minor league career he has posted a 17.7% strikeout rate (and 17.4% at Triple-A). It’s not a terrible number, but one that we would like to see a little bit lower. Most players see a bump in strikeouts when promoted (he’s posted a 21.5% mark in the Majors), so there is the potential to get into danger territory.
If he could keep the strikeouts around his minor league mark he would likely be alright. If it gets inflated too much, he is going to struggle. It’s clearly not that he has a poor eye at the plate, having posted an 11.3% walk rate over his minor league career. That tells us that there is hope.
Thus far, since his recall, he hasn’t done the job in this respect. Over his first 76 AB Cabrera has posted a 24.7% strikeout rate, despite a 9.4% walk rate. Yes, he’s getting on base (with a .340 BABIP) and has been able to steal 5 bases, but if he could reduce the strikeouts he has the ability to do significantly more.
He has always done a tremendous job of putting the ball on the ground and trying to utilize his speed. In 2009 he posted a 62.7% groundball rate and in 2010 he posted a 54.4% mark. Those are the types of numbers you want to see him putting up, because all he needs to do is get a single and he has the ability to turn it into a double or triple on his own. This season he’s continued to put the ball on the ground, with a 60.4% groundball rate (and just a 24.5% fly ball rate).
Obviously he’s not going to be a source of power or RBI, but you would hope that he could post a decent average while stealing some bases and scoring plenty of runs. Of course, he needs to be hitting towards the top of the lineup for the last one to happen. So far the Padres have been hitting him seventh (35 AB) or eighth (33 AB), so that’s happening.
If they opt to move him up to the leadoff spot (aka he’s swinging the bat well), then he could hold value in all deeper formats. Until that happens, however, he brings too much risk and not enough reward to justify using him. It’s just hard to imagine him stealing enough bases or scoring enough runs hitting towards the bottom of the order. In deeper formats, if you need speed, then he’s worth stashing and watching closely. He’s going to get an opportunity, just don’t expect too much.