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April 7, 2005

by Fabian

Well, that sucked (SG)

Melky Cabrera, 20, CF

Despite the general perception that all Yankee minor leaguers are stuck behind veterans with no chance of ever wearing the pinstripes, Melky Cabrera is one of several Yankee farmhands currently holding their destiny in their hands. A solid or lesser year and Melky likely increases his chance of being yet another former Yankee prospect. A breakout year and Melky will have lined himself nicely to attempt to continue the CF tradition in the Bronx.

While many scouts doubt Melky’s ability to stay in CF, citing average current defensive ability with a high likelihood of that declining, as he gets bigger, I do not…to an extent. If Melky Cabrera stays a Yankee, he probably stays a CF, if he’s traded it remains to be seen. The Yankee organization has run Bernie Williams out there as a regular CF since ’02 without much hesitation, I doubt that they will be scared by Melky’s defense. Because of this, Melky’s offensive value to the Yankees is increased, making him more valuable as a Yankee prospect than he would be in other organizations.

Melky is somewhat of a unique case in that despite being only 20-years-old and about to enter his first season above A-ball, there are little doubts about his offensive ability. In 4 minor league stops, Melky has posted BA of .335, .283, .333, and .288 (DSL, NYPL, MWL, and FSL respectively); so from a statistical point of view, it is hard to doubt his ability for average. The scouting angle upholds this view and provides little doubt that any less should be expected of this aspect of his offensive game as he is recognized as one of the better breaking ball hitters around. That is the pitch type that has provided the immovable obstacle for many a hot shot hitting prospect and it is reassuring to know that it should not be a problem for this hitter.

Having a high BA has aided Cabrera in consistently posting above league average OBP, despite his lack of a spectacular walk rate. For his career he walks once every 12.7 AB and as he has progressed up the minor league ladder that number has remained somewhat consistent: 12.1, 12.1, 11.4, 14.5. Outside of his FSL stint to end ’04, Cabrera can/should be expected to walk about once every 12 AB, which is close to the 10 AB breakpoint and made more reasonable considering his aptitude for hitting breaking pitches.

While Cabrera’s BA ability is excellent and his OBP ability is solid, the lone question one could ask concerning his offensive game is about his power. Until the final 2 months of the ’04 season, Melky excelled at hitting line drives into the gaps, but struggled with consistently lofting the ball over the fence. Then once he hit his first FSL home run, and first of the ’04 season, the HRs seemed to come easier as he would go on to knock 8 over the season’s final two months, a very impressive total for the FSL. It is commonly accepted that power is the last tool to develop and looking at Melky’s track record, it would appear that tool has arrived. If the power he displayed in July and August is in fact here to say, he is a very exciting prospect; the .300 BA is almost guaranteed, the defense should be solid, the OBP should be good, long-term, and he should be a suitable replacement for Bernie in the Yankee CF lineage.

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