You are wrong. Nothing like offending a reader in the first sentence of a piece I always say. What are you wrong about, and yes, I'm fairly certain you are wrong (for the second time)? You are wrong in thinking that Asdrubal Cabrera stinks. I'm gonna prove to you why that position just isn't supported by the data.
Asdrubal hit 14 homers in 2013. Only six shortstops hit more last season.
Asdrubal drove in 64 runs in 2013. Only six shortstop had more last season.
Asdrubal scored 66 runs in 2013. Only 10 shortstops had more last season.
Not great by any means but not awful either.
Add in the nine steals that Cabrera had in 2013 and we have a shortstop who had 14 homers, 64 RBIs, 66 runs and nine steals. How many shortstops reached all four marks last season? You ready for the answer? You sure? You're gonna be surprised... the answer is two: Ian Desmond and Asdrubal Cabrera.
See what I mean when I wrote at the top that your opinion about Cabrera is wrong?
Cabrera has hit at least 14 homers each of the past three seasons. The only other shortstop to have done that is J.J. Hardy.
Cabrera has drove in at least 64 runs each of the past three seasons. Hardy is the only other shortstop to have done that.
Cabrera has scored at least 66 runs each of the past three seasons. Only three other shortstops have done that: Erick Aybar, Elvis Andrus and Hardy.
Cabrera has stolen at least nine bases in each of the past three seasons. Only nine other shortstops have done that: Alcides Escobar, Jose Reyes, Eduardo Nunez, Jimmy Rollins, Dee Gordon, Starlin Castro, Aybar, Desmond and Andrus.
If you've read my work at any point, you know what's coming next don't you?
How many shortstops in baseball have hit 14 homers with 64 RBIs, 66 runs scored and nine steals each of the past three seasons? The answer is one – Asdrubal Cabrera.
Do you still think he stinks?
On the flip-side there is one significant concern for Cabrera. His batting average has gone down 4-straight years: .308, .276, .273, .270 and .242. That ain't good. In fact, that mark last season was worse than the league average. Further, his BABIP has failed to reach his .313 career mark in each of the past three seasons (.302, .303 and .283). He also had a walk rate of 6.2 percent last year, a three year low, and his 20.3 percent K-rate was a career worst leading to a career worst 0.31 BB/K rate. However, I would be remiss if I didn't also note that he has actually bettered his career 21 percent line drive rate each of the past two seasons with back-to-back efforts of 23 percent. Guys that have a 23 percent line drive rate don't hit .242 as Cabrera did last season. The only three players who had a line drive rate above 23 percent last year that had a lower BABIP than Cabrera were Alberto Callaspo (.266) Paul Konerko (.265) and Alcides Escobar (.264). There were 41 players who had a line drive rate of 23 percent in 2013 and only three had a lower BABIP than Cabrera. To me that says that the old batting average should end 2014 much closer to his career mark than it did in 2013.
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If Cabrera starts slowly he could feel the heat from Francisco Lindor who was recently ranked the 13th best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America. That's a legit concern that the younger, higher “upside,” player could push the veteran for at-bats. However, if Cabrera performs as he has in the past, he should be able to hold off Lindor for one more season. Time will tell on that point (to solve the logjam a trade could always happen at some juncture).
Is Asdrubal an elite option at shortstop? The answer is no.
Will Asdrubal be a top-5 shortstop in 2014? The answer is no.
Can you win a fantasy league if Asdrubal is your starting shortstop? The answer is yes.
I think this is a pretty straight forward case of a player who is good but not great, solid but not sexy. Cabrera also shot himself in the foot when he went 25-92-87-17 in 2011. By having such a significant season Cabrera set the bar higher than he could consistently reach. By that I mean that he's much more the batter that we've see the past two seasons, a 15-70-70-10 type of guy, than the 2011 fantasy superstar.
As a shortstop in a mixed league his production works. As a middle infield option in mixed leagues his production is very nice. The real value of Cabrera will be determined by two things. (1) Will his .242 batting average from 2013 rebound? As I noted above I believe it will. It should also be noted that Cabrera is a career .273 hitter who hit at least .270 each year from 2009-12. Should we be that quick to write off a four year run just because of one down season? (2) What is Cabrera's draft day cost? If he's the 12th shortstop off the board he's a strong add. If he costs $10 on draft day in an auction he's a good get. And that's just it with Cabrera. He's not flashy, not sexy and not close to being an upside play. However, he's solid and productive, and players that fall into that realm are often overlooked and undervalued.
I like Cabrera for 2014. If if you're expectations are reasonable then you too should like Cabrera for 2014.
By Ray Flowers