At the height of the 2022 Yankees’ late summer woes on August 17th, they made some call ups seemingly just to try and inject some sort of life into a struggling team. One of them — Estevan Florial — didn’t particularly do that. However, the other was a major league debutant.
From his first Bleacher Creature roll call, Oswaldo Cabrera had an eminently likable attitude that made him easy to root for. Soon, his play on the field would warrant him a place on the field not only for the playoffs but for potentially 2023 and beyond.
2022 Statistics: 44 games, 171 plate appearances, 6 HR, 19 RBI, .247/.312/.429, 111 wRC+, 8.8 BB%, 25.7 K%, 1.5 fWAR
2023 ZiPS Projections: 114 games, 478 plate appearances, 15 HR, 59 RBI, .229/.286/.394, 93 wRC+, 7.1 BB%, 27.6 K%, 1.7 fWAR
After making his MLB debut on August 17th, Cabrera recorded his first career hit the next day. While he didn’t hit the ground running with the bat, one thing that became immediately noticeable was his versatility. Within his first six games, he started games at five different positions. One of them — right field — he had only played 25 career innings at in the minor leagues. However, he showed aptitude there, robbing a home run in his very first game there on August 19th.
Between that and the several outfield assists that he made, it became clear that he was playable in the outfield.
His bat went through an extended 0-for-25 slump, until he broke it with a walk-off hit against the Twins. From that point forward, Cabrera put up a .901 OPS over the regular season, cementing his place on the playoff roster and beyond.
While the amount of positions he can play makes him useful to have on the roster in general, his best chance at a starting spot is in left field. He played there a decent amount towards the end of last year’s regular season and playoffs, logging over 100 innings out there. He had the occasional moments of looking uncomfortable out there, and there’s far too little of a sample size to make an concrete judgements on his left field play from the stats. The fact that he was able to adapt to right field pretty quickly certainly gives hope that he can take to it well. While there’s still time before the season, all signs point to the Yankees not making a big move for a left fielder until maybe the trade deadline season. That leaves Cabrera’s competition for left field to likely just Aaron Hicks. Even if the Yankees do opt for Hicks in left field, there’s plenty of room on the roster for Cabrera, thanks to his versatility.
The other main question surrounding Cabrera going into 2023 is whether his bat can replicate or improve on what he did last season. The OPS he put up in a small sample size in the majors was better than what he did in six seasons in the minors. Projections have him as not a terrible hitter, but not quite what he was year. Various wRC+ projections have him somewhere in the 90s as opposed to the 111 in 2022. Peripheral stats also indicated he maybe wasn’t quite as good as the numbers he put up.
However ideally, the Yankees don’t need him to be all of what he was last season. If Oswaldo Cabrera can be a solid hitter and competently play a bunch of different positions, then he’s an extremely useful player to have around. That would be great, because he’s an extremely easy player to root for.