Top 100 Indians: #84 Asdrubal Cabrera

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 01: Asdrubal Cabrera #13 of the Cleveland Indians hits a two run homer in the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox on August 1, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)



Asdrubal Jose Cabrera

Shortstop/Second Baseman, 2007-Present

Height: 6'0" Weight: 180 lbs.

Bats: Both Throws: Right

Acquired: Trade, 6-30-2006:

Traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Cleveland Indians for 1B Eduardo Perez

Note: The rankings were determined in the winter of 2011-2012.

It's a nice coincidence to be writing this the day after the Indians got swept in Seattle, because if not for the Mariners needing a right-handed bat and at the same time being unexpectedly competitive in 2006, Cabrera may have been playing on the opposite team this past series.

What follows is some historical background, which may not seem related to Asdrubal Cabrera, but which I feel led to his acquisition. So please bear with me.

In the spring of 2006, the Indians traded Brandon Phillips to Cincinnati. They would receive a player to be named later who turn out to be Jeff Stevens, but essentially the trade was Phillips for nothing. Phillips was out of options, and so rather than keep him as a backup infielder, the Indians elected to dump him, and the Reds were the fortunate beneficiaries. Phillips had been the headline prospect in the Bartolo Colon deal, but after an awful 2003 season, had been in AAA purgatory, not hitting enough to get back to the majors even though the Indians were essentially holding a spot for him at second base. But now the Indians were moving on.

The Indians had planned on Phillips being the second baseman of the future along with Jhonny Peralta. As it turned out, both would have long and successful careers, with Phillips' success would come with Cincinnati, so that left the Indians needing a second baseman. After Phillips was sent down initially in the middle of 2003, the Indians used John McDonald and Angel Santos at second, but neither hit much, so they signed Ronnie Belliard that winter. Belliard worked out very well, and would be the starter at second from 2004, 2005, and much of 2006.

But Belliard was only seen as a temporary option, and at that time the Indians had no middle infield prospects in the system. Of Baseball America's top 30 Indians prospects in 2006, none were second basemen or shortstops. That season, the regulars at second and shortstop were Jason Alfaro (59 games at 2B), Jose Flores (23 games at SS), Jake Gatreau (29 games at 2B), and Lou Merloni (29 games at 2B), with Joe Inglett playing a utility role. None of those guys were prospects. The Indians had Ivan Ochoa and Eider Torres in AA, who were both marginal prospects, but it didn't look like either would hit enough to make the majors.

But at the time, that didn't matter too much, because Belliard was signed through 2006, and the Indians were poised for a run at the AL Central crown. In 2005, the Indians had gotten to within a game of first place before falling out of the race, and with a young and talented roster, 2006 seemed the year that they would truly contend. But they had some holes to fill, including a right-handed bat to platoon with Ben Broussard at first base, so they signed Eduardo Perez, whose sole talent by that time in his career was hitting left-handed pitching. The signing meant that Ryan Garko would go back to Buffalo and improve his defense at first.

The Benuardo platoon turned out to be a great success, as Broussard would hit .321/.361/.519 (126 OPS+) and Perez .303/.343/.643 (147). But that was one of the only good things that happened that year, as the Indians would fall out of the race by June, and thoughts started to turned towards next season. Obviously selling high on the Benuardo platoon would be one of the priorities going into the trading deadline, though they also wanted to move them quickly, not only because either might stop hitting, but also because Garko was tearing the cover off the ball in AAA.

Meanwhile the Seattle Mariners were still in contention at the end of the June, just a couple games behind Oakland in the AL West. But they needed help at DH, as the off-season signing of Carl Everett was not working out (to say the least). They had a young middle infield duo of Yunieski Betancourt (24) and Jose Lopez (22) and some decent to good middle infield prospects, so the Indians and Mariners seemed a natural for a deal.

According to Baseball America that season, there were three middle infield prospects among Seattle's top 10 prospects:

#2 Adam Jones

#5 Matt Tuiasosopo

#6 Asdrubal Cabrera

Adam Jones, while one of the best prospects in baseball at the time, was moved to the outfield because of the acquisition of Betancourt in 2005. Tuiasosopo was going to be moved to third base, as he didn't have the defensive skill set to stay at shortstop. So Cabrera was the best prospect in the system who was still playing a middle infield position.

Cabrera was signed out of Venezuela by the Mariners in 2002 and after a season in the Venezuela Summer League, moved to the United States in 2004 with Everett of the Northwest League. It was very successful US debut, as he hit .283/.367/.384 as 18-year-old, and was followed up by an even better season split between Wisconsin (Midwest League) and Inland Empire (Califronia League) in 2005. Because of an organizational philosophy of promoting players aggressively, as well as an organizational logjam at shortstop, Cabrera was promoted all the way up to AAA in 2006 at the age of 20, which was a massive jump for a prospect that young. Not surprisingly, he struggled at the plate, but given his age an experience, a .236/.323/.360 line wasn't that bad.

So when the Indians and Mariners talked about Eduardo Perez in late June, Cabrera's name was probably the first one brought up, and surprsingly GM Bill Bavasi said "yes". A 20-year-old shortstop with good defensive skills who was surviving at the AAA level is a pretty good prospect, and Eduardo Perez, while a very useful part, was only a part-time player who also was a free agent at the end of the season. So why overpay that much? The reaction from both Seattle and Cleveland blogs were very similar:

USS Mariner

Perez is a lefty masher who can help the team (.303/.343/.636 in 99 at-bats this year), but this is way too high of a price to pay.

Lookout Landing

I didn't see him going straight-up for someone like Perez, a good player who should've come cheaper. In that respect, I'm a little disappointed. Cabrera's better than this.

Let's Go Tribe

While Cabrera's recent numbers suggest a weak bat, on any given day, only a handful of 20-year-olds are playing above Single-A, anywhere in the country. This season, Cabrera has been striking out once every four at bats, but at lower (more age-typical) levels, his peripherals were solid. Notably, he has maintained a .10 walk rate since the start of 2005, even as he was promoted four levels in one year. Cabrera becomes the youngest player on the Buffalo roster by more than two years, and one of only three Bisons under 25.

[snip]

The Indians have been painfully bereft of solid middle-infield prospects since Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Phillips ascended to the majors. Acquiring Cabrera addresses this problem but also seems rather pointedly aimed at the Indians' infield defense issues. That said, it seems unlikely the Indians would deem Cabrera a solid contender for a starting job in 2007; he seems unfinished. That said, the Indians face several middle infield problems for 2007 -- including Ron Belliard's likely departure and Peralta's newfound defensive yips -- and Cabrera might reasonably solve any number of them.

[snip]

With this season's playoff hopes suffering a shockingly early demise, Shapiro characteristically struck early in the midseason trade market, cashing in a veteran chip likely at its highest point of value. Perez, who will turn 37 in two months, is making $1.7 million this season, and his contract includes a club option for 2007 for similar dollars. As a part-time player, Perez is unlikely to earn his team any compensatory draft picks as a departing free agent. (Jay)

Cabrera would finish the season in Buffalo, but would then go to Akron to start the 2007 season; as a 21-year-old, he was one of the youngest players in the Eastern League, and he was starting to hit for power; he had a .310/.380/.454 line with the Aeros, then was promoted back to Buffalo in late July, and then got the call to the majors in early August. He initially was going to be a backup infielder, playing second, short, and third, but would end up supplanting Josh Barfield as the starting second baseman down the stretch. He hit .283/.354/.421 for the Indians, often batting second behind Grady Sizemore in the lineup. The Indians had a record of 36-20 in August and September, and Cabrera was a large contributor to that success.

Cabrera remained the second baseman in 2008, but was moved over to shortstop for the 2009 season, with Jhonny Peralta moving to third base. While the Indians began to rebuild, Cabrera hit 42 doubles that season as a 23-year-old, hitting .308/.361/.438. But 2010 was a lost season, as Cabrera broke his arm on May 17, would miss two months, and would struggle at the plate the rest of the season. There was no real danger that the Indians would replace Cabrera, with Jason Donald the only competition of note.

Asdrubal had a breakout season in 2011, hitting .273/.332/.460, making his first All-Star team and taking home the Silver Slugger Award for the shortstop position. Cabrera is a switch-hitter, and hits equally well (average and power) from both sides of the plate. During his time with the Indians, he's gotten better with plate discipline (as hinted at in his minor-league numbers) and at the same time has turned the gap power he had when he got to the majors into home run power as he entered his mid-20s. He is an athletic defender, able to make spectacular plays thanks to good hands and an accurate arm, but has below-average to poor range compared to his peers at his position, but the Indians hadn't really considered moving him off the position, as his offensive production ranks as one of the best in the game at shortstop.

Cabrera signed an extension with the Indians this past winter that would keep him in Cleveland through the 2014 season. Assuming health and that he stays on the roster over the next 2+ seasons, he's a good bet to rank a lot higher the next time we do this list.

Indians Career Statstics

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB Pos Awards
2007 21 CLE AL 45 186 159 30 45 9 2 3 22 0 0 17 29 .283 .354 .421 .775 103 67 4/65
2008 22 CLE AL 114 418 352 48 91 20 0 6 47 4 4 46 77 .259 .346 .366 .713 92 129 46/D
2009 23 CLE AL 131 581 523 81 161 42 4 6 68 17 4 44 89 .308 .361 .438 .799 114 229 64
2010 24 CLE AL 97 425 381 39 105 16 1 3 29 6 4 25 60 .276 .326 .346 .673 89 132 6/D
2011 25 CLE AL 151 667 604 87 165 32 3 25 92 17 5 44 119 .273 .332 .460 .792 121 278 *6 AS,MVP-20,SS
2012 26 CLE AL 113 499 455 57 128 29 1 13 52 6 4 39 79 .281 .343 .435 .778 118 198 *6/D AS
6 Yrs 651 2776 2474 342 695 148 11 56 310 50 21 215 453 .281 .343 .418 .760 109 1033
162 Game Avg. 162 691 616 85 173 37 3 14 77 12 5 54 113 .281 .343 .418 .760 109 257
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/23/2012.

Selected Awards/Leaders

AL All-Star: 2011, 2012

AL Silver Slugger (SS): 2011

AL MVP: 20th, 2011

AL Power/Speed: 7th, 2011

Cleveland Indians Career Leader

  • t-38th WAR Position Players
  • t-39th Offensive WAR
  • 49th Doubles (148)
  • 27th Strikeouts (453)
  • t-46th Stolen Bases (50)
  • t-50th Extra Base Hits (215)
  • t-40th Hit by Pitch (27)
  • 25th Power/Speed (52.8)
  • t-25th Win Probability Added (6.3)

Cleveland Indians Season Leader

  • t-42nd Doubles (42, 2009)
  • 39th Strikeouts (119, 2011)
  • t-11th Hit by Pitch (11, 2011)
  • t-19th, Power/Speed (20.2, 2011)
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