Signed by the Yankees without much fanfare or hype, Oswaldo Cabrera exploded onto the scene with a big professional debut in 2016. In 52 games he earned two promotions, finishing as just one of six 17-year-olds to reach the Rookie-Advanced Appalachian League by the end of the season. The switch hitting middle infielder was able to routinely get the bat on the ball while putting up big numbers that first season and opening the Yankees eyes to what his potential might be.
Cabrera’s fast start may have gotten him over-promoted, as scouts saw a player that looked physically overmatched over the next two seasons as he rose to the lower Class-A levels. Cabrera’s physical tools appeared to catch up with his level of play in the second half of 2019 with High-A Tampa, and he now has a chance to make himself a part of the Yankees major league plans following the 2021 season.
2019 Stats (High-A): 493 PA, .260/.310/.378, 8 HR, 56 RBI, 21.3 K%, 6.7 BB%
Prospect Ranking (Yankees System): Not Ranked (MLB.com), 16 (FanGraphs), Not Ranked (Baseball America)
It was a tale of two seasons for Cabrera, and the first half concluded with him hitting just .222 heading into Memorial Day weekend. That weekend things began to click — he made three loud outs in a game that was more notable for being Didi Gregorius’ first rehab game as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. Cabrera’s loud contact began turning into hits and results over the next 77 games en route to a 130 wRC+ the rest of the way. After hitting just 14 home runs in his first three professional seasons, Cabrera finished the season with seven home runs and 21 doubles post-Memorial Day weekend, showing improved power and production.
In addition to the uptick in offensive results, Cabrera proved to be a very valuable asset around the diamond for High-A Tampa. He led the team in games played at third base and second base, while finishing second in games at shortstop. Scouts love his hands at any infield position, and he has shown the versatility to avoid being blocked positionally in the system.
This coming season Cabrera will once again be under the guidance of hitting coach Joe Migliaccio, who came away impressed with his 2019 effort.
“Such a good player and for him, he is younger than league average but he is incredibly mature for his age.” Migliaccio said. “He just hit the ball harder, he hit the ball more consistently hard, he hit it higher, less ground balls, he made better swing decisions.”
High-A to Double-A is often referred to as the biggest jump a prospect will face before the final jump to the major leagues. Cabrera will have to return to his strong finish from 2019 if he want to push for a potential spot on the Yankees 40-man roster. Thairo Estrada, who has been a utility infield option for the Yankees for three years now, will be out of minor league options following the season and the Yankees could be looking for an internal option with roster flexibility. While the potential to rise and challenge for a roster spot exists, Cabrera must also perform to hold off the talented group of middle infielders like Josh Smith and Ezequiel Duran that are emerging from the Yankees system.
Oswaldo Cabrera is coming off his best offensive stretch since his debut season in 2016. He will have to shake off the lost minor league season and hit the ground running in 2021 to reclaim his position as a fast-riser in the system. If he can maintain his defensive versatility while taking the next step offensively then Yankees fans will begin routinely hearing Cabrera’s name by the end of this coming season.