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The old adage is that speed never slumps. While we can obviously argue the finer points of that comment, the fact remains that speed is a vital part of the standard fantasy baseball game. You can hope to get guys that give you production in all five categories including steals, but once the first few rounds of a draft are complete those fellas no longer exist. That's when we start to look at positional depth and target players that can help in certain categories. When you can find a speedster who also plays a premium position, like shortstop, you've got yourself one interesting fantasy player. Welcome to the Player Profile for the Padres' shortstop Everth Cabrera.
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In 2013 Cabrera was third at the shortstop position with 37 steals (Jean Segura 44, Elvis Andrus 42). However, Cabrera played in just 95 games compared to 146 and 156 for the other two. If Cabrera had kept up his pace for 150 games we would have been looking at him dropping a spot 58 on big league catchers (Jacoby Ellsbury led baseball with 52 steals). Cabrera has always enjoyed ample success with the wheels, he stole 73 bags in just 121 games back at Single-A ball in 2008 as he runs and runs and runs (he also swiped 44 bases in just 115 games in 2012). He has borderline elite speed and a run to 50 steals wouldn't be absurd to think about at all.
But why the 95 games played last season you ask? You already know the answer. Cabrera was popped with a 50 game suspension last season for his links to Biogenesis and the whole PED fiasco that embroiled baseball. Cabrera cheated but at least he didn't pull a Braun and deny what he had done. I could care less about the apology, it rings extremely hollow to this scribe, but perhaps the contrition he showed speaks to how serious he realizes the situation is and that he will avoid anything spotty moving forward. The good news is that Cabrera will be ready to rock from Game 1 in 2014.
Besides the speed what does Cabrera bring to the field?
In eight minor league seasons Cabrera hit .290 with a .381 OBP. Those are pretty impressive numbers for a player of his ilk (think about guys like Rajai Davis who swipe a bunch of bases but can't provide much in the average column while also failing miserably to be a big time on base threat). Cabrera hit .283 with a .355 OBP in 2013 with the Padres, but those were by far the bets numbers he's posted with the Padres (his career marks are .252 and .330). Cabrera's minor league track records suggests that the 27 year old could be able to hold on to the marks he posted last season, but I have a little bit of doubt. Compare his efforts the past two seasons.
2012: 3.00 GB/FB, 19.1 line drive rate, .336 BABIP, 9.6 BB rate = .246 average
2013: 3.19 GB/FB, 20.6 line drive rate, .337 BABIP, 9.4 BB rate = .283 average
Two virtually identical seasons yet two vastly different batting average outcomes. On the plus side he did lop off five percentage points from his career strikeout rate (his mark was just 15.9 percent in '13), but with everything else looking so similar I'd expect Cabrera to see his batting average regress a bit in 2014.
He had a career best four homers in 2013. Nothing to see there.
He had a career-high tying 31 RBIs in 2013. Nothing to see here either.
Cabrera scored 54 runs in 95 games. That prorates to a season of 85 runs scored over 150 games. Still, the most he's ever produced in a season is the 59 runs he scored as a rookie in 2009. The speed is there to score from second on a single or from first on a double, but unlike his time in the minors his time in the majors has shown him to be nothing other than average in terms of his ability to get on base (.330 career OBP).
A quick synopsis.
* He plays shortstop.
* He's got elite speed for the position.
* His batting average would seem to be in danger of slipping.
* He's only average at getting on base and that is a warning sign for the runs scored column.
* He has no power with nine career homers.
* Because of his spot in the batting order he's never had 32 RBIs in a season.
Cabrera deserves to be a top-10 option at shortstop for his wheels alone, but be wary of those that suggest he should be a top-5 option. He's an admitted cheater. He's never appeared in 120 games in a season. He has no power. He will knock in no one. If his batting average slips, and to restate it I think there is good reason to believe it will (even if just a little bit), you're pretty much just paying for the steals and nothing else. Given the lack of elite performers at the shortstop position it's fine to target a one category wonder like Cabrera, just don't reach for him while making sure you compensate for his lack of run producing production and batting average insecurity with other selections to your club.