The Yankees certainly need more from Oswaldo Cabrera. After Monday’s collective fiasco, the utilityman is hitting .193/.226/.273 with one home runs and four steals in 94 plate appearances, “good” enough for a putrid 32 wRC+. There are plenty of reasons to be worried. For example, his 4.3 percent walk rate has been cut in half compared to the 8.8 percent he had in the majors last year. He is also a below replacement-level player at the moment, with -0.4 fWAR (before Tuesday’s game).
Nothing seems to be going Cabrera’s way. Yet, unlike many of his teammates, there is hope for him. The Yankees, in this particular case, should be very patient, and so should fans because even though the results aren’t there yet, the versatile second-year player might be on the verge of breaking out of his funk.
In his past 10 games, dating back to April 21st, Cabrera has a 91.0 mph average exit velocity, a solid 9.7 percent barrel rate and a 41.9 percent hard-hit rate. Despite 13 hard-hit balls, he is 4-for-34 over that span, with a 5.9 BB% and a 2.9 (!) K%. As you can see, he has been making improvements in both quantity and quality of contact, so results should follow in short order.
You might look at his 26 wRC+ over the described timeframe, or his 32 mark for the season as a whole and say he has been a disappointment. And he has. The numbers rarely lie. However, what we are saying is that the underlying signs of a positive streak are right there, too. Cabrera doesn’t have any line drives over that span according to FanGraphs, which is not ideal, but he has hit 55.2 percent fly balls in those 10 contests. Hitting the ball hard and in the air should eventually lead to good things.
The lack of liners can help explain his putrid .103 BABIP over the last 10 games, but it’s too low nonetheless and should start going up in a hurry. Considering he hit 21.8 percent line drives last year in the majors, there are reasons to believe his current 10.3 percent yearly mark will increase at least a bit. With the way his swing is geared, his lack of line drives, and other things in his profile, it’s highly unlikely that Cabrera ever becomes a .300 hitter. He doesn’t need to be one in order to be a successful batter, though, and he showed that last year with his 111 wRC+ despite a .247 average.
If the Yankees are patient and don’t drastically reduce his playing time, he could reward them with a nice run offensively, and God knows the lineup needs another productive hitter. There just aren’t many of those these days, not with the litany of injuries the roster has suffered and the flaws in the construction of the roster.
The fact is that Cabrera was a key player for the Yankees before the start of the season because he was, and still is, a safety valve should Aaron Hicks, Gleyber Torres, Anthony Volpe, and other players struggle/get injured. He is a traditionally slow starter: last year in Triple-A, he hit .186 in 22 games and 95 plate appearances from April 5th to May 8th, the day in which he suffered his injury. Then he returned and got hot, earning him the call to the majors. In his first few games in MLB, he struggled mightily, and then made adjustments and was successful.
He starts slow and he has two swings to figure out, so yeah — give the kid some time. Getting him started should be in the organization’s best interests, and even if it’s tempting to bench him or send him down, patience is required and recommended.