Me, Elsewhere: Cabrera and Seven Other Second-Year Players

My latest at Hardball Times revisits eight position players who garnered regular playing time as rookies in 2009. Some, such as the Cardinals’ Colby Rasmus and the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen are enjoying terrific sophomore campaigns. Others, such as the White Sox’s Gordon Beckham and the Padres’ Everth Cabrera, are struggling.

From the segment on Cabrera:

Cabrera’s comps included Rafael Furcal, Pete Rose, Chuck Knoblauch and Steve Sax. I’ve also acknowledged that his downside could be Mike Caruso. Unfortunately, so far, Cabrera’s sophomore season is looking more like Caruso’s than those of the others.

Cabrera is hitting .212/.257/.283 (53 OPS+) and in the midst of his second disabled list stint due to a strained right hamstring (not an injury a player who relies so heavily on running ability can afford to sustain). Caruso was a year younger when his game fell apart; he hit .250/.280/.297 (47 OPS+) for the Chicago White Sox in 1999 and then essentially disappeared.

Cabrera isn’t there… yet. However, when he returns to the active roster, he will need to do a better job of getting on base. His walk rate this year (4.6 percent) is less than half what it was in 2009 (10.5 percent), which isn’t a trend you’d like to see from someone who should be a top-of-the-order hitter.

As is the case with Beckham, Cabrera has youth on his side for now. He’s got nearly a full season’s worth of plate appearances under his belt at the big-league level, posting a .246/.325/.345 (89 OPS+) line during that stretch. Accounting for offensive environments, that still puts him pretty well in line with Furcal at the same stage:

Player   PA   BA  OBP  SLG OPS+
Cabrera 547 .246 .325 .345  89
Furcal  901 .286 .365 .377  89

It would be nice if Cabrera can come back strong when he returns from the DL. Jerry Hairston Jr. has done a capable job in his absence, but the Padres could use a guy with Cabrera’s skill set in the short term and in the long term. Here’s hoping…

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