Remember when Asdrubal Cabrera was a rising star? 2011 doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, but for Cabrera it was. That year, he broke out as a fantasy star, hitting 25 homers with 17 steals and a .273/.332/.460 line in his age-25 season. Since then, he’s combined for 30 homers and 18 steals, and in 2013 he really cratered, putting together a lousy line of .242/.299/.402. Yet it seems to me that he still gets talked about like he’s a top-tier shortstop. Maybe that’s just me, or maybe it’s because “Asdrubal” is such a unique name, but it’s clear he no longer deserves that respect, finishing only 15th in our end of season shortstop rankings.
Throw in lousy defense — which doesn’t matter for fantasy, but does for teams actually wanting to employ him — and he was essentially a replacement-level player, and headed into his age-28 season with Mike Aviles around and Francisco Lindor coming, he may very well have played his final game as an Indian.
If 2012 (.332 wOBA) was worse than 2011 (.344 wOBA), then 2013 was even worse than that (.307 wOBA), and it’s not all that hard to see a big reason for that right off the bat. Or not off the bat, as it were, since Cabrera’s strikeout rate jumped to a career-worst 20.3%, which is walk rate fell to 6.2%. Strike out more while walking less, and it’s no surprise that your OBP drops below .300, right?
Cabrera swung at slightly more pitches than usual overall (48.8% as opposed to a career average of 47.0%), but he swung at many more pitches outside of the zone (jumping from 29.6% to 34.4%). So not only is his overall contact rate down (79.9%), but more of the pitches he does get to are outside the zone, generally leading to weak contact — and while a .283 BABIP isn’t awful, it does stand out when he’s never been below .300 before. (I’d direct you to this in-depth Beyond the Box Score article from early September to see a full dive into Cabrera’s swing issues.)
When you think about a shortstop who’s ranked #15, that’s not necessarily someone who is worth starting in a standard 12-team league, but that’s now how he’s going to be valued, is it? It’s true that only five shortstops over the last two years have more homers than he does, and this is a position where double-digit dingers always stand out.
But even if some of that BABIP comes back — if you blame part of his lousy year on a June quad injury, maybe — what’s his upside? 2011 certainly looks like an outlier now. The Steamer projections give him back some of that BABIP, pushing it to .296, along with a .259/.320/.408 line that’s just below his career averages across the board, and another season of 14 homers and 9 steals. Not very creative, perhaps, but about right considering what we know about him. That’s probably a borderline starter at the position. He’ll get drafted higher than that. Let someone else take the chance.