Oswaldo Cabrera is an exciting player to watch. It’s not every day that you have a prospect come up late in the season and cement is spot in the lineup like he has. He’s a natural shortstop/second baseman, but as you all know, he has suddenly become an incredible defender in outfield. His reads look like he has been playing out there for years, and for some reason, runners keep giving him opportunities to prove how accurate his arm is.
Our own Jeff Middleton did a deep dive into how Cabrera’s skillset will be a great advantage for the Yankees in the playoffs. A versatile player gives a manager more flexibility in his decision-making on lineup cards and in-game matchups. However, my focus here will be on Cabrera’s offensive profile. and how it’s time for us to consider him as a legitimate threat at the plate in the postseason.
Right now, his slash line stands at .234/299/.403. That’s equated to a 100 wRC+ on the dot. League average hitting from a rookie with plus defense? I take that every time.
But the thing is, there may actually be more here. In September alone, he has worked to a 117 wRC+, with an impressive .452 slugging. For somebody who isn’t necessarily a basher of baseballs, a .290 isolated power is very impressive. Most of that is due to the natural loft Cabrera has in his swing. If I’ve learned anything from watching the Yankees, in particular Gleyber Torres, it’s that you don’t have to be on the league’s hardest hitters to be a productive power hitter. What’s more important is hitting the ball within a consistent range of launch angles that finds yourself in the gaps, and over the fence on occasion.
In other words, avoiding chopper groundballs and high flyballs is ideal. Anecdotally, I think Cabrera has been pretty impressive in his consistency of swings, and that has led to consistent batted ball outcomes. While his xwOBACON isn’t too impressive on the surface, you can zoom in a bit on all batted balls since September 11th, and see he has indeed been mashing to a tune of .438 expected wOBA on contact.
These last few weeks are the reason I’m entertaining Cabrera as a true above average hitter. You don’t luck yourself into hitting the ball like this. Usually lucky hot streaks can be chalked up to batted balls that finds holes, drop in, etc. When you hit the ball hard at ideal launch angles, though, it’s good reason to think that something concrete has happened which has powered this turn of events.
This is the swing that made me think Cabrera is legit. I haven’t been worried about his ability to pull the ball with authority. His home runs to the pull side have been beautiful no-doubters. What’s important for a rookie hitter is to prove to pitchers they can keep their hips and shoulders closed long enough to not cheat on fastballs. This slider wasn’t backed up. This have good bite and was located in a spot that Cabrera would’ve grounded out on when he was first called up.
I know. You may be thinking, really dude, one swing made you believe? To that I say yes, it did indeed. For weeks I was thought to myself if Cabrera could just wait a little longer on those outside pitches, his offensive ceiling will skyrocket. Well, here we are. Sometimes one swing makes everything click. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the one.