Everth Cabrera: Hopefully the New Michael Bourn

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.

everth

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.

everth whiff 2013

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.

everth

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.

Season Name G PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP BB% K% BABIP
2009 Michael Bourn 157 678 3 97 35 61 0.285 0.354 9.30% 20.60% 0.366
2010 Michael Bourn 141 605 2 84 38 52 0.265 0.341 9.80% 18.00% 0.329

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
2010 Elvis Andrus 0.265 88  0 32 35 76
2011 Elvis Andrus 0.279 96 5 37 60 51
2012 Elvis Andrus 0.286 85 3 21 62 71

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.




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You can find more of Brett's work, including his podcast, on TheFantasyFix.com or follow him on Twitter @TheRealTAL.


11 Responses to “Everth Cabrera: Hopefully the New Michael Bourn”

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  1. Eno Sarris says:

    I have a hard time with him because of my real-life skepticism of him. He has one tool! Bad defense! Strikes out too much! No power! And yet, in fantasy, especially at this position… well-argued piece.

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    • n8 says:

      Your site has him as a positive defensive player

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      • Brandon Firstname says:

        No it doesn’t. The “DEF” number is UZR+Positional adjustment. His career UZR/150 is -7.1.

        I feel like the “DEF” column should make this more clear, because a lot of people get this wrong.

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    • maddawgstu79 says:

      ive always kinda thought Elvis was a bit overrated and a decent comp for cabbie albeit with a slight age difference but Andrus has always gotten more attention but has played more. Also I think in fairness Cabbie has two of the proverbial 5 tools; hit and speed, but we shall see

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    • Barney Coolio says:

      You say Cabrera has one tool. One of the 5 tools is “hitting for average.” In 2013, Cabrera hit .283 with a .355 OB%. How high do those stats have to be before you will grant him that tool? Michael Bourne has never had an OB% as high as .355.

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    • bballislife17 says:

      When it comes to the SS position one tool is about all you hope for sometimes.

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  2. Brett Talley says:

    Thanks, Eno. I think the key is the strikes out too much part. If that becomes a problem again, he won’t be as valuable as I’m suggesting he can be.

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  3. Dch says:

    Shortstop hitting around 280 with 50-60 sbs and 90 or so runs…he will win many a roto league

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  4. Andre says:

    I think he can reach 60+ SBs if he can maintain that OBP. To reach that level, you need to be a little greedy and steal 3rd a lot. Bad defense? Every game that I’ve seen, I come away impressed by his glove. Where does this come from anyways?

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  5. Fanthed says:

    Fine piece! Except for: “Getting to the plate enough is important, but getting on base is at least as important for a base stealer, if not more so.” Uh, a bit on the obvious side, don’t you think? But, still, nifty analysis.

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