The only thing that has kept Everth Cabrera from topping 50 stolen bases in a single season is a lack of playing time. He only got 449 PA in 2012 because he didn’t get called up until May 17. Apparently Jason Bartlett needed to come to the plate 100 times first. And then last year he played his final game on August 4 thanks to his 50-game Biogenesis suspension. But presumably Jason Bartlett will not steal 100 PA from him and there will not be another suspension in 2014, so Cabrera has an excellent chance to steal 50.
He has stolen 81 bags on 97 tries in the last two years (83.5%), and he stole 128 bags in 1,535 minor league plate appearances (roughly once every 12 PA). And once every 12 PA was about the rate at which Cabrera stole bases last year. For you math whizzes, he’d get to 50 steals if he could steal bases at that rate over 600 PA.
Getting to the plate enough is important, but getting on base is at least as important for a base stealer, if not more so. Cabrera improved mightily in that respect last year when he saw his OBP go from .324 in 2012 to .355. The jump was due primarily to a vastly improved contact rate and thus a much lower strikeout rate. He swung a little less as well, but it was primarily the improved contact skills that facilitated the OBP improvement. A slight improvement in his line drive to fly ball ratio also helped out a little. Below are a couple of charts showing these improvements.
But the question is whether he can maintain these improvements. To answer that question I took a look the chart below showing how much Cabrera whiffed month by month last year.
That’s what we were hoping to see. Cabrera whiffed on breaking pitches a little more in the last two months of his season, but he improved on the other pitch types. The improvement on the hard stuff is good to see since about 65% of the pitches he sees are of that type. But it’s even better to see a big improvement on offspeed stuff given that the first chart in this article shows that is the pitch type he’s had the most trouble making contact with. Just to give you a better look at his improved contact on offspeed pitches, I’ve included two zone charts below. The chart on the left is Cabrera’s whiff rate on offspeed pitches from 2012 through May of last year. The second is his whiff rate from June 1 to August 4. You can see the improved contact rate everywhere but especially on pitches down in the zone or below it.
Aside from giving Cabrera more opportunities to steal bases, the continuation of the improved contact skills would also help keep his batting average respectable and lead to more runs scored. If the contact skills and OBP remain at or close to the improved levels, Cabrera could hit around .275 and score 80 or so runs (Steamer has him projected for 84).
When trying to think of a comp for Cabrera, Michael Bourn kept coming to mind. And Bourn’s 2009 and 2010 seasons are good examples of what I think the most likely scenario is for Cabrera and what his upside might be.
That 2010 line for Bourn is almost exactly what I would project Cabrera for this year. And the 2009 line is possible if he gets some BABIP luck and runs a lot. But assuming he produces something close to the 2010 line, where should he be drafted?
Following that 2010 campaign, Bourn was drafted around pick 120 on average meaning he was a 10th or 11th round pick in most 12-team leagues. But Cabrera plays at a shallow position, so he should be going earlier than 120 if you think we’re talking about a reasonable projection for him.
It could be more helpful to see where someone like Elvis Andrus has gone in the past. Andrus and Cabrera are similar players in that their main contributions will come in runs and steals, their batting average will be average or slightly better, and they won’t give you anything in the power categories. They also have slight differences. Cabrera will steal more bags, but Andrus likely bests him in average and runs. But the differences probably amount to a wash or close to it. Below is a chart showing Andrus’ 2010-2012 production along with where he was drafted the following year.
|Season||Name||AVG||R||HR||SB||RBI||ADP the Next Year|
The ADP of 51 after his 2011 performance isn’t the one you should pay attention to here. That was Andrus’ best year as he had highs in his best categories as well as highs in the power categories. But the 71-76 ADP seems more like the stick to me when using Andrus as a benchmark for Cabrera. If you were to take Cabrera in that range, that means you’d probably be selecting the sixth or seventh shortstop off the board. And despite missing the final two months of the season, Cabrera finished 7th among SS on ESPN’s player rater.
My guess is that Cabrera won’t go that high. Some skepticism of him coming off the suspension as well as some skepticism of him regressing in the strikeout department should depress his value. Had you asked me to guess his ADP prior to me looking into him to write this article, I probably would not have guessed he’d go inside the top 100. So I think there is the possibility that he turns out to be a really nice value. I could be wrong about some things. My projection may be overly optimistic. I may be wrong about what his draft day value will be. But the long story short is that if I can get him after pick 80, I’ll feel like I’m getting some value.