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Scouting Report: Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on May 23, 2006

Amidst the Seattle Mariners leap into their most recent successful phase of Latin American scouting, international scouting director Bob Engle and Venezuelan area scout Emilio Carrasquel stumbled upon Asdrubal Jose Cabrera, a slick-fielding, switch-hitting shortstop.

That was back in late 2002 and the teenager impressed the ballclub with his showing in Everett in 2004 as an 18-year-old.

The first thing you notice when watching Cabrera is that he's very good defensively, led by his great hands, more than adequate arm strength with plus accuracy, and top drawer footwork.

He can be too flashy at times, but rarely makes a mistake, and with more experience he'll be a gold glove candidate at shortstop.

Clearly, he can handle the position at the next level.

But there's more to Cabrera, now 20, than meets the stat sheet.

Prior to his stateside debut, Cabrera spent a year with Aguirre in the Venezuelan Summer League and followed his strong showing in the Northwest League (.272/.330, 5 HR, 7 SB, 63 G) with a well-traveled, but successful '05 season.

Cabrera began last season in Class A Wisconsin and quickly proved he was ready for the jump to the California League. At 19, he hit .318/.407 with 19 extra-base hits in 51 games with the Rattlers.

After moving on to Inland Empire where he hit a respectable .284, Cabrera was again promoted.

But this time he'd skip a level and land in the middle of a Triple-A pennant race with the Tacoma Rainiers. He hit just .217 in six regular season games but proved himself in the first round of the playoffs versus Sacramento.

Cabrera had six hits and three walks in the five-game set, including the game-winner in game four.

This was enough evidence for the M's to be convinced of his abilities, and he started the '06 campaign back with Tacoma, surprising some, including myself.

But he was clearly ready for the challenge, and now he's quieting his critics.

Those critics include scouts around the league and a few of the M's own who expresses concern about Cabrera's on-base skills.

He does lack power, typical of many middle infielders, but he's more than capable of working the count and maximizing every at-bat.

He profiles a lot like former Mariners shortstop Carlos Guillen, minus some of the pop.

Scouting Report

Strengths: Cabrera is an exceptional fielder with a strong, accurate throwing arm and often displays his uncanny ability to make the improbable throw. He has no weaknesses in the field, but needs more experience with positioning.

Offensively, he's progressing at a high rate, but lacks the power to compete with the new wave of shortstops in baseball, such as Troy Tulowitzki, Brandon Wood and Stephen Drew.

But contrary to what almost every scout has reported on him over the past few years, he has plenty of plate skills to be more than an offensive liability. Cabrera consistently works deep into the count, rarely swings at anything but strikes and has a solid, smooth line-drive stroke.

His pitch recognition is far ahead of schedule and he's shown he can control the strike zone. He's not Chris Snelling that department, but he's well on his way to being an above-average bat.

Unlike Yuniesky Betancourt, Cabrera's natural skills make him a candidate for early offensive success in the bigs, at least in OBP. Betancourt is an aggressive hitter that has just one year of pro ball under his belt, but Cabrera has been working on his craft with professional instructors for four years.

He's got the bat speed and discipline to max out in the 8-12 home run range, taking Safeco into consideration. Add that to a 275-285 batting average and a .350 OBP.

Weaknesses: Athletically, Cabrera rates above average and possesses slightly above-average speed, but he won't steal many bases. He runs the bases intelligently and without error or hesitation.

He can lose focus at the plate at times and becomes over-anxious, leading to a few extra strikeouts here and there, but it's nothing alarming.

He's shown more power from the right side of the plate but is more skilled from the left side. This should even out with more experience. His advanced numbers as a right-handed hitter come primarily from his aggressive nature facing lefties.

Tools – Now/Future

Hitting for Average/On-Base Skills: 55/60

Hitting for Power: 40/45

Defense: 70/75

Speed: 55/55

Staying Power: 60-65

Overall Future Potential: 60

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48 Responses to “Scouting Report: Asdrubal Cabrera, SS”

  1. eknpdx said

    Things are going to get intereseting in the near future. I’m liking the middle IF problem we are going to deal with. Those are the problems you want to have.

    So when does Tui get moved out of SS? šŸ˜‰

  2. He doesn’t want to move – EVER. But he’s simply not good enough at short to stay there and to be honest, I don’t know if third base is really that possible at the big-league level either.

  3. eknpdx said

    I’m assuming, so correct me if I’m wrong, that the powers that be are happy with their middle infield situation on the farm? I’d figure with Navarro as a favorite, they would look to get the switch on Tui now.

    BTW, if it were up to you, how do you handle Cabrera from now on? I seem to recall someone from ITP commenting that Cabrera’s frame might fill out more, and he may grow out of SS.

  4. Knuckles said

    So, are they thinking corner OF for Tui?

  5. The front office loves their current middle infield and having Cabrera doesn't cloud up anything, because ultimately, Lopez could slide to third to make room for Cabrera, but that's a ways off, if it even becomes possible with Beltre around.

    How would I handle Cabrera? Not sure what ya mean.

    Cabrera isn't going to "outgrow" shortstop, he's 6 feet and 185 pounds, but I said a few years ago that his physical skills remind me of a morph between Roberto Alomar and Edgardo Alfonzo, circa 1998.

    It didn't look like he'd stick as a GG shortstop to me at first,. but not because he didn't have the hands and footwork and arm strength, I was a tad concerned about his range. Only concerned as far as gold glove SS's go, but he's learning how to position himself and get jumps and to cut off ground balls better, which makes up for a slight lack in foot speed.

    re: Tui

    That's where his physical tools project best and he'd probably excel defensively out there.  They might try him at third before moving him to the outfield, but I would skip that idea.  I don't want to ruin a kid's confidence by moving him off a defensive spot TWICE.

    Move him once, move him for good. 

  6. Tokyo Sam said

    Hi Jason!

    So, if Cabrera shows that he can stick at the big league level, what would you do with two positions (SS/2B) and three players (Cabrera, YuBet and Lopez)? Assuming that all three deserve to play regularly, of course.

  7. Assuming Cabrera follows suit of his middle-infield bretheren and deserves regular play, I have options.

    First, I’d try to move Beltre without paying too much of the remaining salary. That way I could start Cabrera at second, YuBet at short and Lopez at third. That’d be the best defensive infield in the majors and all three adequate bats.

    But the trade route is probably more likely. But I don’t trade Cabrera just to deal him, or Yubet. If I can’t get value for him, whether by himself or more likely in a package deal, then he just spends a little extra time in AAA.

    Cabrera is 20, and will not be 21 until November, so there’s time for him to truly develop in the minors. Just like Jones.

    We’re a year away from this decision coming to fruition, though.

  8. eknpdx said

    Again, a wonderful problem to have.

    Thanks Jason.

  9. Shimanchu said

    So how far away from the big league is Cabrera? It would be interesting to see how the M’s would accomodate him and adjust their mid-infield. I guess it matters on how Beltre comes out by the end of his contract. It’s going to be exciting times in the coming years…

  10. Cabrera may see big-league time before then, but he’s not likely to be ready before late in 2007.

    He needs more AAA at-bats. Maybe 500 more.

  11. dnc said

    Is there something missing at the beginning of this writeup?

  12. Knuckles said

    I presume you mean the opening paragraph that goes like this: “That was back in late 2002 and the teenager impressed the ballclub with his showing in Everett in 2004 as an 18-year-old.”

    What was back in late 2002?

  13. Umm, October, November, December… that was back in late 02.

    LOL.

    HTML problem, should be fixed now.

  14. Marinerhomer said

    Jason, with Tui’s best position in the outfield is there any corner infield prospects in the M’s system besides maybe Lahair? I know Sexson and Beltre are under contract for a while but it would be nice to have some insurance or other options in the future.

  15. johnb said

    Beltre is signed till 2009 at 12.5 per, so I don’t see him going anywhere right away. An infield of Cabrera, Betancourt, and Lopez would be great, but we don’t really have to worry till Spring 2008. Cabrera will be only 22 then.

  16. Nope.

    Marshall Hubbard is a decent first baseman, right there with LaHair, but he hasn’t had a good first six weeks in A ball, so his stick has dropped.

  17. Allen Jacobs said

    Jason, how would you compare defensive skills of Cabrera vs Navarro?

    Also, would Navarro hit enough to be a MLB minimum replacement for Bloomquist?

  18. Cabrera vs. Navarro…

    They are actually pretty similar, but Cabrera is just year ahead and has shown more consistent gap power. Navarro may not hit enough to be a regular, but he can handle short and second and runs better than Cabrera, though he doesn’t steal a lot of bases.

    Navarro isn’t switch hitting anymore, either. Righty only.

    Navarro-Bloomquist? He can develop enough offensive value to be a better sub than Willie, yes. He probably won’t be that stolen-base threat that Dynamite is, but he can take a walk and work the count some.

  19. Mabalasek said

    “He’s got the bat speed and discipline to max out in the 8-12 home run range, taking Safeco into consideration. Add that to a 275-285 batting average and a .350 OBP.”

    I think this is what Yuni is doing in Safeco NOW.

    With that, I think Cab could be a nice sweetener in a deal.

  20. While he may very well be a trade piece, Betancourt is NOT doing that at Safeco right now.

    He’s hitting .277 but still slugging under .400 with a terrible .291 OBP.

    I’m not knocking him, but he’s not doing the aforementioned Cabrera projection right now.

  21. Allen said

    Thanks for the insights Jason, great job as always.

  22. Thanks, Allen. It’s why I’m on this planet.

  23. testing said

    Testing from class. Ha ha

  24. Jerry said

    I have to admit that I am a bit torn on how the M’s should deal with the infield in the next year.

    Beltre just looks lost. He seems like he is teasing M’s fans by hitting deep flys that are caught at the warning track, making the great defensive play, or hitting the ball hard enough to make us think that he is coming around. Then, he flails at outside pitches and strikes out with men on base. I hate to say this, but the M’s should really look into moving him.

    Unfortunately, 3B is one of the weakest spots in the farm system.

    I really like the idea of bring up Cabrera as a 2B, then moving Lopez to 3B. However, Lopez is doing alright at 2B, and it would be sketchy to keep moving him around the infield. Plus, his offense at 2B is all-star quality, while he would be merely good at 3B. On the other hand, an infield of Cabrera, Yuni, and Lopez would be sweet. The defense would be exceptional, and it would allow the M”s to throw money at other areas of the club.

    The M’s have another year or so to work this whole thing out. But I have to wonder how long they can go with Beltre being a giant open wound in the lineup. It would suck to have to eat that contract, or accept a similarly bad contract in exchange. It would suck even worse to see him blow up with another club after being traded. But something has to happen.

    The M’s need offense, and you can’t build a good lineup with your third baseman hitting .210/.283/.287. A .287 slugging percentage! That is absolutely amazing! How did this go so terribly wrong?

  25. Actually it wouldn’t necessarily let them throw money elsewhere, because one way or the other, they’ll be paying a lot for Beltre after he’s dealt away.

    Lopez can handle third without a ton of transition time, and while I agree that you really don’t want to mess with him after he switched once already, but you do what makes your team better.

    I still think in the end, Cabrera is part of a trade.

  26. dnc said

    Jason, nice article in the PI (as usual).

    One question – I didn’t see any mention of Sherzer. Is he completely off the M’s radar, even after his recent performance against the ‘Horns?

    After Miller, Lincecum and Lincoln, I’d put Sherzer right there with Hochevar and Morrow. Are they just scared off by the arm issues, or is there something else they don’t like about Max?

  27. Dave said

    Hi Jason, I had asked you about Borchardt before the Marlins picked him up (still don’t understand the Mariners logic). My next question involves Wladimir Balentien. He seems to be a pretty good hitter with power. Am I accurate on him, and where does he project in all of this? I never see him mentioned as a top prospect in the M’s system.

  28. dnc said

    With Wladamir, it all comes down to the plate discipline. If he develops some…any…he could be pretty decent. If he develops a decent amount, he could be special.

    However, we’ve been saying this about Wlad for three years, and haven’t seen much improvement. At some point, he’s going to have to cut down the K’s if he wants to reach the big leagues.

    But yeah, the kid has legitimate power. More than any right handed prospect we’ve had since ARod, probably.

  29. DIQ said

    Don’t forget Wlad is only 21. He’s being challenged at AA, but he is walking more but still K’ing at a high rate.

  30. DIQ said

    And in case you were wondering here our his stats right now in San Antonio:

    .261/.350/.529 879 OPS
    157ab 10hr 33rbi 21bb 56k

  31. marc w. said

    We HAVE seen an improvement with Wlad. Yeah, he’s still striking out lots (56 in 157 ABs), but he’s added a lot of walks this year in AA. That’s significant – an .090 or so ISO-Patience makes up for a lot of Ks. I mean, he’s got an 880 OPS in a pitcher’s park in AA. He’s fine. His line is almost identical (though a bit *better*) than uberprospect Brandon Wood’s in the same league. Food for thought.

    Jerry,
    What can you say about a 3B making 12.5 Million and ‘slugging’ 287. That’s sick. I still think the best stopgap solution the M’s have is playing Lopez at third, but it may be less than ideal. Ergo, AsCab gets traded. The key is, who would you want in return? Who would you package w/ him?

  32. Re: Scherzer

    Some clubs are worried that he's best suited for relief and the M's are one of them. The M's draft board looks like this..

    Miller, Lincoln, Lincecum, Hochevar*, Morrow, Longoria… And there's really no way they actually take Longoria.

    And it would be different if Max hadn't gotten hurt. 

    re: Wlad

    He's improved a little bit, but it's far, far from being enough. He's drawing the walk more this year but his K rates have not gotten any better and if he wants to make the bigs, he'll absolutely have to clean that up.  He's still young enough to do something but he's veered off the fast track and is now on the Casey Blake-to-the-bigs train.

  33. Willmore said

    The walk rates are not indicative at that level of baseball. It’s as much, if not more, the wildness of young pitchers as it is the patience of hitters. Wlad does have legit power, but if he does not improve, that power will mean nothing if he flails at every slider and curve in the majors.

  34. Goose said

    Heh, Casey Blake

    .354/.431/.614

    Seriously, WTF???

    I traded him in two fantasy leagues and it has come back to haunt me already.Though in one league he was included in a package that netted be Troy Glaus, so it wasn’t all bad.But still.

    I mean come one, a 1.045 OPS from Casey Friggin Blake?

  35. While Wlad’s walk rates are fine and you can indeed look past those for a 20-22 year old kid in the minors, his K rates are inexcusable.

  36. Willmore said

    Then again … Adam Dunn struck out 32% of the time in his Major-League career.
    Jim Thome in 30%.
    Mo Vaughn in 26%.

    Wlad sits right about in that range over his career (though this year it’s up to 36%) … not that I’m excusing it, just food for thought.

  37. StandinPat said

    IF Wlad ever does make adjustments it could be scary. He’s hitting alot of HR’s without puttin the ball in play all that often. If he ever cuts down the SO’s the Bombs should go through the roof.

  38. marc w. said

    He’s right where Dallas McPherson was, and for huge K guys, check out Bo Jackson. Yes, that limits guys like that from *becoming* a Thome, or Dunn or whomever. But for a guy like Wlad who probably played a lot less baseball, and who can still get a walk, well, you’ve got something kind of intriguing.
    How can a guy who won’t turn 22 until July, in AA, with an OPS of well over 800, have an ‘inexcusable’ flaw? Yes, he’ll have to improve that to be a top prospect, and no one’s arguing that he’s on a fast track. He needs to finish the year in AA, and play a full year of AAA ball in ’07. But hey, he’s actually producing despite the ugly K rates. And as I pointed out, some very highly-regarded prospects are right in the same neck of the woods as Balentien. Couple that with the park factors working against him, and I’m just amazed at how little love he gets.
    McPherson had his share of acolytes despite being much older for his league, being a 3-year college-trained hitter, and striking out over once per game.

  39. The difference between Wlad and all three of the guys you mentioned Marc, is handedness.

    Thome, Dunn and DMac are all lefty sticks that have a daily advantage over 80% of the starting pitchers.

    That’s not something Wlad will ever have. Small potatoes, but history propves that it does matter.

    Also, Wlad’s lack of progress is the concern here, not the numbers themselves.

    Lot’s of guys fan a lot. But they tend to get a little better at it as time goes by, with either a jump in power to offset the strikeouts, or by making more contact.

    Besides, he doesn’t have the power of anyone else mentiuoned here.

    He’s got the raw power to hit 30ish.

    Not likely 40-50.

  40. Willmore said

    Yeah, but 30 is the new 40 in the pre-post-steroid era.

  41. Wlad’s power is a raw 30, however. He doesnt have the kind of pop of Dunn, etc. Not anywhere near.

  42. marc w. said

    OK, you don’t like comps to lefties? How about:
    Wily Mo Pena
    Dave Kelton
    Franklin Gutierrez
    Javier Herrera
    Josh Fields… or, to go back a bit
    Jesse Barfield

    Check Andy Marte’s first taste of AA – yes, he struck out less (though still around 1/gm), but the OBP/SLG are right there. Marte was a bit younger, but I’m not arguing that Balentien’s as good – but young players don’t often have 850 and up OPS+’s, and I think that’s worth remembering. We all know he strikes out a lot, but check out some of the better RH power prospects, and you’ll see a lot of similarities.

    Some guys, like barfield, needed to repeat AA before you really saw a notable improvement in K rate. And while Barfield didn’t quite have Balentien’s K ‘ability’, he also put up worse stats- he never had a minor league season above 800 ops+. With Wlad, he’s actually producing despite the ugly Ks. Will that continue? A fair question, but seriously: look at some other guys who had that problem in the minors. And it’s worth remembering that you can actually help a team despite a ton of Ks. It’s rare, but it’s by no means unheard of.

  43. All of the above are better HITTERS than Wlad, and were at the same stages of their development, too.

    Herrera is a young one, however.

    The problem with Balentien right now can be summed up by this comment from roving hitting instructor Glenn Adams.

    “The best hitters in the bigs become good hitters first, then add the power later. Those who show the power first but have troubles making contact are very likely to be long-term projects and fewer of them pan out. Unless the kid is hitting 35 or 40 homers with the 140 strikeouts.”

    Which Wlad isn’t doing.

    He’s interesting and worth watching, for sure. It’s just not worth comparing him to the few who broke through and made the right adjustments to get it done in the majors. For every one of those who did, there are 10 who didn’t.

    And I wouldn’t say Pena has done much in the bigs yet.

    Kelton hasn’t done squat and Guts and Fields are still a minor leaguers. So I don’t get the comp there at all.

    I like how you worded this one…

    “And while Barfield didn’t have Balentien’s K ability”… Good one.

  44. JH said

    Willmore: I’m not sure what comparing Wlad’s minor-league K-rates to the MAJOR-league K-rates of famous whiffers gets you.

    For a better reference point:

    MINOR-LEAGUE K-Rates for the 3 lefty sluggers you mentioned:

    Dunn: 22%
    Thome: 21%
    Vaughn: 21%

    It’s harder to make contact against major league pitching than minor league pitching. Without a substantial change in his approach, Wlad’s K-rates will only skyrocket if he’s tested at higher levels.

  45. marc w. said

    “All of the above are better HITTERS than Wlad, and were at the same stages of their development, too.”

    Were they? Barfield at 21, in his second go-round in AA: .261/.340/.448. Adjust for era, sure, but that’s substantially worse than Balentien’s line.
    Josh Fields’ first taste of AA: .252/.341/.409. There’s no comparison here.

    Here’s Pena’s line in the MWL:
    .264/.314/.485
    And here’s Wlad’s:
    .277/.315/.519
    (for comparison purposes, here’s Brandon Wood’s)
    .251/.322/.404 (with a similar K rate)

    Oh, and Herrera’s:
    .275/.374/.444 (that’s substantially better OBP, but the raw power isn’t there, and Javier actually struck out MORE often than Wlad. OPS adv.: Wlad.

    Maybe some folks think they’re better natural hitters, but isn’t it weird that Balentien is actually out-hitting them?

  46. Willmore said

    Bottomline: Wlad is not a blue-chipper, and the chances of him ending up an all-star are slim-to-none if he does not improve massively within 2-3 years.

  47. Marc… look deeper than stats, eh?

  48. mariners said

    BOOOOOOOOOO a spammer Jason, get rid of it.

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