In 2009, Everth Cabrera hit a very respectable .255/.342/.361 as the San Diego Padres every day shortstop. Even more impressive, though, was the fact that he did it as a 22 year old making the rare jump from Single-A to the majors, thanks to the Rule 5 draft.
After last season’s stellar rookie campaign, it was hard not to get excited about Cabrera’s future. He put up a .700 OPS as a 22 year old shortstop in Petco Park, with very little professional experience. He’s fast, athletic, and showed potential in the field.
If he was two wins above replacement in 2009, let’s say, how good could he be in his prime, at age 26 or 27? Four or five WAR, easily.
The problem with this type of analysis, and it’s a trap that we often fall into, I think, it that Cabrera’s 2009 performance is merely a microcosm of his game as a whole. It’s just a sample of 100 games played, in the context of the 2009 season and everything that came with it.
Cabrera could have been particularly lucky or simply been playing well above his head for a number of games. Or, perhaps, his performance in 2009 was indicative of his true talent. We don’t know, for sure, and we can only estimate.
Given what we know, both about Cabrera’s past and baseball players in general, his 2009 season was largely fluky. I mean, guys just don’t make that kind of jump that seamlessly. And based on Cabrera’s relatively brief minor league track record, there isn’t much of a reason to believe he’d be an exception.
Perhaps as expected, 2010 was nearly a complete reversal for Cabrera, as both the injury bug and poor performance (.208/.279/.278, 241 PAs) hit hard. Last year’s season was more representative of what we may have anticipated in 2009, a deer-in-the-headlights look from someone not quite ready to perform at this level.
With Jason Bartlett taking over at short, however, Cabrera will have time to hone his craft in the minors, making up for some much needed development that was missed due to the early call-up. If he’s able to get healthy and make some improvements in both parts of his game (hitting and fielding), he still has a good chance to be a productive major league shortstop. But if you were expecting a star, based on his flashy 2009 debut, you might end up disappointed.