Allow me ask you something. How much value does a recently turned 23 year old Center Fielder with a line of .296/.349/.438 have? Toss in the fact that the player also has 886 Major League at-bats and has shown a plus arm and at least average defense in any outfield position.
Also, remember that the player is making next to nothing and won’t be for at least 2 more years.
Do you think that player is worth more over the next 5 years than someone like Andruw Jones?
The answer is, yes. The player…Melky Cabrera.
Admittedly, Andruw Jones is the “shooting fish in a barrel” choice, but in order to grab the hearts (throats!) of the public, you need to make an example of one of their trusted beacons of baseball-goodness. Jones, oh, he’s a beacon! (Not quite as bright as The Captain though…then again…)
Yes, I said all that, but allow me to really explain why I said it.
Point 1: That .296/.349/.438 line is very good for a 23 year old in the big leagues. Now, if Justin Upton is hitting that way at age 23, then it’s a problem, but then again, you don’t find Justin Upton’s everyday.
Point 2: Those 886 Major League At-Bats are huge at age 23. That’s a lot of experience to have by the time you’re of that age. Now, yes, most of the really good prospects/players have more ML ABs by then, but Cabrera wasn’t really a hot-shot prospect.
Point 3: He’s improving as he gets older. Cabrera is becoming more powerful, with a 2.9% increase in his Home Run per Fly Out rate, and nearly a 50 point jump in Slugging Percentage. It appears that he’s attempting to make more contact, as both his Strike Out and Walk Rates are down. That also explains the slight increase in Line Drive rate and in Ground Ball rate. It’s possible that going that route will work, and it would help if the power continued to increase.
Point 4: The defense is okay (or bad, or good, depending on what you believe,) but should improve. As time passes and he receives more consistent work in Center Field, Cabrera should become more adept at taking the correct route and therefore increasing his range. He has a very powerful arm, but he’s still learning to harness it. However, his accuracy is improving, and should continue to get better.
Conclusion: That all points to a decent Center Fielder right now, but also opens up a possibility of a very good peak.
Now, to be fair, I’m not saying Melky Cabrera is a star, or will be a star. But considering where he is and the progress he has made, it’s very reasonable to think that Cabrera could become a good to very good Center Fielder by the time he peaks. He’s absolutely a piece of the Yankees' future.
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