Oswaldo Cabrera has quickly become one of the most lovable players on the New York Yankees since he worked his way into Major League Baseball last season. The leaping catch he made at the wall in right field and his “pull the pin and throw the grenade” to recognize the Bleacher Creatures during his first roll call were both events in his first game in pinstripes that started a love affair for the young Venezuelan.
Not only has Cabrera’s lovable personality off the field and effort on the field made an impact in the minds of the people that choose to watch the team play, but it’s made an impression on the people who decide whether or not to play him. After naming him as the starting left fielder for the Yankees in 2023, he has been as useful as most expected him to be.
One might look at the numbers he has posted thus far and be confused about how a player with a 73 wRC+ and .619 OPS is “as useful as most expected him to be” so far this season, and it’s a fair question. However, despite those numbers being initially lower than expected (and I’m confident that they will make a positive regression to the mean as the sample size becomes larger and the season wears on), the ability to play so many positions well is a huge plus for a team dealing with injuries and some roster logjam.
There are still some positives to Cabrera’s start looking at the numbers. He has a .269 batting average with a .412 BABIP, which is playing a big part in the kind of hits he’s getting— ground balls through the infield. He’s also hitting the ball hard 41.2 percent of the time.
Speaking of contact, Cabrera is also still making contact with the ball when it’s in the zone, sitting at 81.6 percent, around average relative to the rest of the league. Finally, when he’s making contact with fastballs specifically, he’s getting rather lucky, but his .417 batting average on those pitches is helping him get on base and create chances for the Yankees to drive in runs, which is the key here.
Cabrera’s start from just a numbers perspective may not be the one many people envisioned would happen. There are positives, of course, and most things will level out as he continues to get at-bats, but it’s still relatively underwhelming. However, the Yankees have had to deal with things like not finding a true left fielder worth the price in the offseason, an injury to Harrison Bader, and a new injury to Josh Donaldson, which has put Cabrera into a more high-pressure situation with a utility player being more necessary to keep players rested.
The way that he has handled it has been sublime.
There are two big takeaways to glean from Cabrera’s start to 2023. The first is that the season is still young, and there’s plenty of time for him to get back to the hitter we know he can be. The other, and the one I view as the more significant of the two, is that Cabrera has been a stabilizing presence to the Yankees. Having him means they aren’t forced to play Aaron Hicks in left field consistently, and on days that the coaches decide to rest a player or two (like in the 11-2 win against the Cleveland Guardians, where Aaron Boone decided to rest both Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Volpe), they can feel confident in the abilities of the guys they’re putting into the lineup. The man can play anywhere.
Cabrera is a talented player who offers stability on the field and in the batters box for the Yankees, and the season is brand new relatively speaking, but he deserves the recognition and appreciation.
All cited statistics are as of the start of play on April 11th.