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Oswaldo Cabrera’s power surge has him on the doorstep to the majors

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After being described as “overpowered” as recently as a few years ago, Oswaldo Cabrera has flipped the script and is slugging the ball all over the upper levels of the system.

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Listed at just 5-foot 10 and 145 pounds, Oswaldo Cabrera joined the Yankees in July 2015 with none of the hype that surrounded the team’s star-studded class from the year prior. His small stature carried an impressive bat that produced early on, as Cabrera rose through the system by jumping levels ahead of many peers from his age group. This season, Cabrera’s bat has impacted the game with some of the best power numbers in the Yankees system, and he is now within sight of reaching The Show.

Cabrera’s ability to surpass his peers served him well until he reached Low-A Charleston in 2018; there, he was described in scouting reports as “physically overpowered,” as he struggled at the first full-season ball level. A promotion the next year to then-High-A Tampa seemed to be more of the same, as he entered the night of May 25, 2019 slashing .228/.263/.293 in his first 190 plate appearances of the season. That night in Bradenton, Florida the Tarpons took the field with some reinforcements in the form of rehabbing Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius. Making his first rehab appearance since Tommy John surgery, the major leaguer pushed Cabrera into a designated hitter role for the night and t kid began to turn his season around.

Cabrera’s box score read 0-for-4 at game’s end, but he started to find the hard contact that the Yankees’ coaches wanted to see from him. Leading off for the Tarpons that night, the switch-hitting Cabrera took his hacks from the left side and pounded two balls directly into a stiff Florida wind that died on the warning track. Another solid line drive ended up in the center fielder’s glove as well. It was not the type of contact that you would have expected to see from a player slugging just .293 up to that point in the season.

Building off that performance, Cabrera posted a .434 slugging percentage and a 130 wRC+ the rest of the way with seven home runs. Those numbers do not jump off the page, but they represented were a serious turnaround from where he started his campaign.

Yankees minor league hitting coach Joe Migliaccio said in an interview with Pinstripe Alley that Cabrera was “such a good player; he is younger than league average, but he is incredibly mature for his age ... He just hit the ball harder, he hit the ball more consistently hard, he hit it higher, fewer ground balls, and he made better swing decisions.”

During the lost pandemic season, Cabrera remained in the United States, as he was unable to return to his native Venezuela. Like many of the Yankees prospects, evaluators did not see him play because there was no organized instructional league for the team prospects who remained in the United States. Cabrera was also not invited to the alternate training site.

Coming into 2021, Cabrera began the season slowly with with Double-A Somerset, hitting just .216. Despite the slow start, he left the Patriots to join Venezuela’s national team, which attempted to qualify for the Olympics in late-May and early-June.

After a two-week absence, Cabrera returned and started producing an impact that very few people outside of the organization ever saw coming. In the 93 games since returning, Cabrera has slugged .555, with 24 home runs and 27 doubles. His swing has found some serious power, and those balls that were dying in the Florida wind in 2019 are now leaving the stadium with plenty of room to spare.

Cabrera has maintained his power display, even after a late promotion following the end of Somerset’s season. Since joining the RailRiders, he has homered three times in his first five games at the Triple-A level.

On the defensive side, Cabrera played more games at both third and second than anyone else for Double-A Somerset this season. Additionally, only top prospect Oswald Peraza played more games at shortstop than Cabrera. He is a true utility option who can play anywhere on the diamond. That utility provides a value in its own right, but when it comes with a bat that can instantly change a game, it becomes a very appealing option. Cabrera is Rule-5 eligible this offseason and has made a strong case for a 40-man roster spot with the Yankees.

Oswaldo Cabrera has tapped into a power surge that not many analysts ever envisioned. He is up to 27 home runs on the season after hitting just 22 combined in his first four professional seasons. His versatility around the infield gives him multiple paths to the majors if the opportunity presents itself.