by Myron Logan

Recently, I have been thinking about possible storylines for the upcoming season; what we are going to be watching. I think, for the most part, they involve sorting out the future of this team, and not necessarily winning games (though we will accept winning games, too).

I thought we could run through some different issues in separate posts, as sort of a disjointed season preview, touching on major topics (like where Adrian Gonzalez will play his games post all-star break) and micro ones (Cabrera’s fielding or Gwynn’s bat, for example).

Anyway, Everth Cabrera broke onto the scene with a surprising rookie year, making the huge jump from A-ball to the majors as a rule 5 pick. He not only stuck in the bigs, he clearly turned himself from borderline prospect to potential long-term contributor. He had shown plenty of offensive talent in the minors, so perhaps his season with the bat — .255/.342/.361 – should not have been that much of a surprise. He is not a power hitter, and probably will not turn into one, but he combines enough speed and patience to be a solid offensive contributor, especially at shortstop and in Pecto Park.

The CHONE projections, despite pegging him as nearly a league-average offensive player (again, quite a feat coming from a guy who had never played above A ball until last year), have him as a 1 WAR player next year. That is not bad, but it is not exactly earth-shattering either. Why so low? His fielding. CHONE projects his fielding to be 10 runs worse than the average shortstop next year. Considering that is a projection, and not raw numbers based on relatively few opportunities, it is somewhat disheartening.

UZR, available on FanGraphs as well, was also not a fan of Cabrera’s glove-work last year, putting him at nearly 12 runs below average. It was not just an error issue either, as he was equally bad in error runs and range runs (about –6 in each category). The only bright spot was his double play rating, which was just slightly above average.

For even further evidence of his defensive shortcomings, by the numbers, the data available at THT is also not encouraging. Cabrera came in last in the NL, among qualifiers, in RZR (plays in his zone turned into outs). His play out of his zone was respectable, but overall he still comes out well below average.

The good news is that Cabrera is young and talented, so these early numbers do not necessarily show who he is going to turn into on the defensive side of the ball. The other good news is that they may be wrong, or at least too pessimistic. Baseball America 2009 called Everth’s shift to short in 2008 “seamless,” and reported that he showed solid range and arm strength there. The Fans Scouting Report results were also positive, ranking Cabrera as the tenth best SS in the majors, and giving him excellent grades in “first few steps,” “speed”,” and “arm strength.”.

It is possible that the numbers do not represent his actual performance from last year; that due to whatever biases, they did not grade his fielding properly. It is also definitely possible that, despite a bad initial showing, he could develop into an average (even elite) fielder, with good coaching and hard work on his part. Of course, it is also possible that he just is not good with the glove.

Whether Everth Cabrera becomes a staple at the 6 hole for this Padres team may very well come down to what kind of value he ends up providing in the field. His development in this area of his game is something to keep a close eye on this year.