2012 Player Profile: Alberto Cabrera
Alberto Cabrera could get a shot in the starting rotation in 2013. (Photo by Stephen Green)
2012 Innings Pitched: 21.2 (25 G, 0 GS)
2012 Pitching (all per 9 IP): 6.23 RA, 6.6 H, 7.5 BB, 0.4 HR, 11.2 K
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 0.1
2013 Contract Status: Signed (Pre-Arb, First Year)
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): Four-seam (94), Two-seam (94), Slider (83), Change (87)
If there’s a project worth keeping an eye on for 2013, it may be the one that pitching coach Chris Bosio started with Alberto Cabrera this season.
Bosio focused on making simple, yet fundamental, changes in pitchers this past Spring Training—things like grips, arm angles, pressure on the landing foot and other small tweaks that can unlock a pitcher’s potential. Cabrera was one of his earliest success stories, as Bosio had the (then) 23-year-old change his sinker grip, producing immediate results. The velocity of the pitch jumped into the mid- to high 90s, and it began darting away from left-handed hitters a lot like Steve Carlton’s slider, in the words of Bosio himself.
Now the Cubs feel they may have a future rotation candidate in Cabrera, who is slated to be stretched out in Triple-A Iowa to start next season.
There’s a lot to like with Cabrera, who was signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2005. He stands 6-foot-4, has a live arm and throws with a free-and-easy delivery. In his first tour through the majors last season, he also showed an effective third pitch with his change-up.
He’s taken his lumps at every level along the way, but he’s shown the ability to bounce back and improve his second time through. The 2012 season represented his best yet in a number of areas, including a career-best 3.11 ERA in 55 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.
Nowhere was Cabrera’s improvement more apparent than in his strikeout rate, which doubled from about 15 percent a year ago to more than 30 percent this season. And he was able to more or less maintain that standard in his brief major league stint, in which he struck out more than 27 percent of batters faced. Meanwhile, his walk rate halved from 10.3 percent to 5.7 percent, though he struggled with free passes in the majors. But the development was apparent across several of his component stats.
Let’s take a quick look at Cabrera’s PITCHf/x data, using the proprietary tags and tools provided by BrooksBaseball.net and Baseball Prospectus (player card). It’s a limited set of information based on just 21 major league innings, but it does provide a glimpse of his relative strengths against batters on both sides of the plate.
Against right-handed hitters, Cabrera largely relies on his four-seam fastball and slider, using power stuff to blow away hitters. He deals with left-handers, on the other hand, by mixing in a hard change-up that fades away from the batter like his sinker, but it travels about seven miles per hour slower. He can also mix in his slider, attacking the batter inside and tying up swings.
The Cubs feel Cabrera may be more ready than ever for another shot at the rotation, where the organization tried him in the minor leagues up until this year. With the right-hander starting to truly unlock his live arm, it’s a project worth keeping an eye on.