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Oswaldo Cabrera has the potential to make a difference for the Yankees

With stellar exit velocity numbers in the minors, the infielder has been a beast since returning from his shoulder injury in early July.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees-Workouts Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s finally happening: the Yankees called up an infield prospect who’s been on a tear in Triple-A. No, it’s not Oswald Peraza, but instead Oswaldo Cabrera, here to try and provide the lineup with a real spark. The 23-year-old has strengths and weaknesses, but he has the potential to make a real, tangible contribution to the Bombers.

The Yankees’ 14th best prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Cabrera has the kind of hitting profile and defensive versatility to help the Bombers get out of their funk. He is no savior, but he can help.

Cabrera has hit .264/.343/.500 with eight home runs and 11 stolen bases in 203 Triple-A plate appearances. With a 122 wRC+ over that span, he has proven he is an above-average bat in the minors, and he will go to a lineup that badly needs an offensive upgrade at the positions he plays the most: second base, shortstop, and third base. It remains to be seen if he can overcome the leap in pitching level from Triple-A to the majors, but he has the tools.

According to a recent podcast by the folks at Baseball America, Cabrera has “decent contact skills. He doesn’t chase a ton: he has slightly aggressive approach but it’s not anything that’s really concerning.” Per BA, Cabrera is an 80 percent contact hitter in the zone and a roughly 74-75 percent contact hitter overall. His average exit velocity this season is at a fine 92 mph, and he creates launch.

Cabrera, a switch-hitter, has been better against right-handers, with an impressive .876 OPS. However, he is not a huge liability against lefties, with a .739 OPS. With the glove, he’s not a star at any position, but he can pass at all the spots on the dirt he plays.

Cabrera missed some of the season with a shoulder impingement, but ever since he came back in early July, he has looked even better than his 2021 breakout version. Since July 4, he is slashing .340/.424/.651 with eight home runs, 21 runs, 26 RBI, 11 stolen bases and a 182 wRC+. His OPS during that times stands at an incredible 1.075, covering 126 trips to the plate. It’s not the biggest sample, but it’s still significant that he’s been playing his best ball once he was removed from the shoulder ailment.

Most scouts agree on the fact that Cabrera’s transformation started when the pandemic began. Whereas many prospect saw their careers being affected by the missed at-bats or innings in a competitive environment, the Yankees and Cabrera decided to focus on his physique. It has paid off big-time.

Per BA, Cabrera gained 55 pounds since signing.

“He showed up to minor league spring training (in 2021) visibly stronger and more filled out, and the results followed. The ball jumped off his bat in ways it never had before, including a 5-mph jump in average exit velocity over the past two seasons. Cabrera also changed his batted ball profile to lean more toward getting the ball in the air than in any of his previous seasons. He maintained his excellent bat-to-ball skills while exponentially increasing his impact.”

With his bigger body, he is unlikely to be a long-term shortstop, but some scouts say he could be an above-average defender at second and third while holding his own at shortstop.

Plate discipline is not Cabrera’s forte, but don’t let his full-season numbers fool you: he has made strides in that department this season. For the year, he has a 9.4 percent walk rate and a 26.6 percent strikeout rate. However, he managed to improve those numbers to an 11.1 percent walk rate and a 19.8 percent strikeout rate since July 4. That’s marked improvement over there.

There is a chance Cabrera struggles against the much, much better stuff major league pitchers will send his way. But there is also a non-zero chance he is better offensively than the likes of IKF and Josh Donaldson, and with the Yankees losing so many games recently, it doesn’t hurt to find out if he can achieve that.