Left field has been a question mark for the Yankees for some time now, but between the 2022 and ‘23 seasons, it seemed as though it was answered, somewhat surprisingly, by Oswaldo Cabrera. He was very solid in his 44 games last season, and reinforced it with an excellent spring training this year — he seemed like a guy. But, despite winning the job, the switch-hitter underperformed by a longshot, and was one of the bigger disappointments in a lineup featuring more than one of them.
2023 Statistics: 115 games, 330 PA, .211/.275/.299, 5 HR, 60 wRC+, .256 wOBA, -0.6 fWAR
2024 Contract Status: Arbitration eligible in 2026
Over 44 games and 171 plate appearances in 2022, Oswaldo Cabrera made a convincing case as the Yankees’ starting left fielder for the 2023 season. The switch-hitter hit to the tune of a 113 wRC+, and put up 1.5 fWAR in a brief but impactful debut in the big leagues.
Left field was one of a few spots that could have been filled externally this past offseason, but the Yankees opted to give Cabrera a full shot. As justified as it may have been, the plan (and Cabrera’s subsequent grade) failed miserably.
The 24-year-old took a significant step back in basically every category. He hit fewer homers in nearly triple the amount of games, slugged under .300, and turned in a hole-in-the-lineup 60 wRC+ in his 330 plate appearances. Among major league hitters with at least 300 plate appearances, Cabrera’s wRC+ was better than just five of them, including two one the basement-dwelling Rockies and Athletics, and interestingly, three different hitters on the playoff Marlins.
Cabrera’s F grade is fueled not only by the obviously poor performance, but also the major disappointment it brought. As mentioned, he was seen as a solid answer to the left field question, and it now feels like an even more pressing matter than it was prior to his arrival. In 2023, the Yankees rated dead last in all of baseball for production from left fielders. Their 75 wRC+ was better than only the offensively-challenged Tigers, and their -1.2 fWAR was the worst by a fair margin.
While it’s not even a full season of data, his defense around various spots in the field was not particularly convincing either, as his OAA rated in just the 29th percentile. But even pushing that aside, Cabrera’s offense was bad enough to strongly put into question his role going forward.
Oswaldo had already earned himself a demotion in the middle of the year this season. But, he was rather quickly brought back, as the big league depth dwindled throughout the difficult middle stretch of this season. The move didn’t shake things up enough, as Cabrera continued to struggle, and his impressive rookie campaign began to feel like a more and more distant memory.
It is difficult to give a once-promising student a big ol’ F, but he’ll still only be 25 for next season. A revival is never impossible, but his 2023 season feels bad enough to shadow it in serious doubt, and the same goes for his future in pinstripes.
There are a handful of productive outfielders on the market this coming offseason, but the Yankees have shown a tendency to be complacent of late, so perhaps Cabrera gets something resembling another shot in 2024, but he’ll have some serious studying to do in order to improve on his justified F in 2023.