In a piece available to non-Baseball Prospectus subscribers, Joe Sheehan talks about his break-out candidates for 2008. Making the list is none other than our own Melky Cabrera, and Sheehan likes what he sees:
Cabrera is listed at 5’11” and 200 pounds. He’s not Willy Taveras, but rather a player who should be developing power and learning how to drive the ball, rather than hitting the ball on the ground 60 percent of the time.
I’m reminded of Alex Rios, who doesn’t look a thing like Cabrera. Rios was largely disappointing in 2004 and 2005, hitting just 11 homers in more than 900 at-bats, with an isolated power of 117. The problem: Rios was hitting the ball on the ground too much, a 1.82 G/F in those two seasons. Starting in ’06, Rios put the ball in the air more than half the time, and became a star. When you look at Cabrera’s body, his established control of the strike zone, and his ability to hold his own at a young age, you recognize that all it’s going to take is for him to start elevating the ball. Cabrera may not get there in 2008, but he’s going to pop 80 extra-base hits and slug .500 in a season very, very soon.
Where to begin? Where to begin?
First off, if Melky is 5’11” and 200 pounds, then I’m 6’3″, 220. And trust me; I’m more like 5’9″, 170 in real life. While Melky may be listed at a robust 5’11” and 200, I’ve heard from people who have seen him that Melky Cabrera is not that tall. Now, usually, a player’s height doesn’t matter, but when Sheehan starts comparing Cabrera to the 6’5″ Alex Rios who has a fairly substantial wing span, something is not right.
But putting aside height, let’s look at the numbers. Melky Cabrera has a career slugging percentage of .388. His Minor League mark is .422, and for 135 plate appearances in AAA in 2006, Melky slugged .566. That’s the only time in his career his slugging percentage at any level of the game has topped .462. That is a far, far cry from .500.
Meanwhile, Baseball Prospectus’ own PECOTA doesn’t put Melky anywhere close to .500 “very, very soon.” At best, Melky looks to slug below .440 during his age 26 season. Those numbers will head south after his 2007 numbers are added to the equation. That too is a far, far cry from .500, and anything more than four years from now isn’t really “very, very soon.”
It’s no secret that we are skeptical of Melky Cabrera’s long-term outlook as a Major Leaguer. He’s never profiled to anything more than a 4th outfielder, and he has yet to show anything at any level to suggest otherwise. Feel free to point to Sheehan’s statement as an indication that we’re wrong about Melky, but when history is on our side, I bet our assessment is closer reality than the prediction that Melky will suddenly develop into one of the game’s best power hitters “very, very soon.”