In lieu of updating the shortstop rankings – that will come next weekend – it seemed like a good time to check in with a shortstop that seemed like a decent deep league value going into the season. Now, though, Everth Cabrera is looking like a sunk cost on most fantasy teams. Despite special wheels, owners are wondering if he even deserves a roster spot at this point.
Any discussion of Cabrera’s value has to start with strikeouts. Strikeouts are negatively correlated with batting average – that much should be obvious because the batting average on a strikeout is just about zero. Strikeouts aren’t all bad, since they are weakly but positively correlated with power, but power is not Cabrera’s game. He has a .099 ISO (.150 is about the major league average) and his power is even down from last year’s mediocre level.
Last year, Cabrera struck out 23.3% of the time and had a .106 ISO. Only Michael Bourn struck out more than 23% of the time and had an ISO under .130. In fact, only Bourn, Cabrera, B.J. Upton, Dexter Fowler, David Wright, Chase Headley and Mark Teahen had strikeout rates above 23% and below-average ISO at all. And at least two of those guys won’t be on that list this year as their power has recovered.
Cabrera’s power, on the other hand, has gone the other direction. He now has a .073 ISO, which would have been worse than any BA-title qualifying player that struck out over 20% last year other than Emilio Bonifacio. And it’s Bonifacio’s name that should really start striking the alarm bells. The combination of a high strikeout rate and no power is a toxic one that we’ve seen before.
Of course, Cabrera’s defense has the potential to separate him from Bonifacio. While Bonifacio struggled at third and second, Cabrera has the ability to man a key defensive position up the middle, which would alleviate some of the pressure put on the team by his below-average to average offense. Then again, the Friars’ shortstop put up a -13.4 UZR/150 last year, which would have been second-worst in baseball (to Yuniesky Betancourt) had he qualified for the batting title. This year, Cabrera is better (+1.6 UZR/15), and we know from a recent Tom Tango post at The Book Blog that it looks like we could be looking, generally, for about two and a half seasons of fielding data before we draw serious conclusions. For what it’s worth, Cabrera’s defense rated about scratch in the minor leagues.
With a little better BABIP luck (he currently has a .260 BABIP compared to .325 last year), his batting average could approach last year’s mediocre .255 number. With his reach rate climbing, and his strikeout rates steady and poor, that might just represent his upside in terms of batting average. Added to his declining power, this package is one that will never be a great option in fantasy. So it’s really all about his walk rate in the end – if he can return to walking about 10% of the time, he’ll get on base enough to flash the one tool fantasy owners really care about.
Unfortunately, since scratch defense at an important position doesn’t count in most fantasy leagues, Cabrera will most likely give back most of his value gained from stolen bases in his poor batting average and utter lack of power.