The early emergence of Melky Cabrera


It’s no secret that we here at RAB weren’t the biggest fans of Melky Cabrera by the end of last season. We thought we had seen enough of Melky to recognize his ceiling and pinpoint his flaws. So far, through 118 plate appearances this year, Melky seems to be proving us wrong. He’s hitting .291/.359/.505, and he leads the team with 6 HR. He’s showing more patience at the plate and more power with the bat. While it’s still early, Melky’s been a pleasant surprise. Today, in Newsday, Ken Davidoff looks at the career path of Melky and praises the Yankees for their patience in developing the youngster. It is certainly ironic that the one piece of the Santana puzzle we were most willing to part with in December is the one producing the most for the team right now.

Categories : Asides
  • Mike R.

    Great post Ben. It’s nice to see you guys cutting Melky some slack.

  • Chip

    I’m just as shocked as you guys about the power aspect of Melky’s game. Hell even Brett Gardner is hitting no doubt homeruns! Seriously, I can’t even fathom the Yankees offsense if they get 25-30 homeruns a year outta this guy with 20-30 steals and excellent defense. I know everybody and their mother don’t expect that to happen but he keeps hitting them (from both sides of the plate and not just to the short porch either). I’m also as skeptical as everybody that will reply to this but just imagine…..

  • Count Zero

    It is certainly ironic that the one piece of the Santana puzzle we were most willing to part with in December is the one producing the most for the team right now.

    Even more ironic — everybody who keeps hammering away at the “we should have traded Hughes for Santana” theme keeps neglecting to mention the fact that if we had made the trade (using the same short-term math they are using to evaluate Phil and IPK), we would be without the team’s best hitter and defensive outfielder. LOL

  • Chris

    I saw an interesting post over the winter that compared Melky to Alex Rios, and it predicted this would be a breakout year for Melky. It suggested that if Melky reduced his GO/AO ratio (by hitting more flyballs), you could expect a jump in power numbers and overall production. This year, Melky dropped him GO/AO ratio from roughly 1.5 to 1.0. Rios made a similar improvement at the same age.

  • Rob

    But let’s not forget that had they dealt for Santana, Gardner would be thriving in CF. All the folks saying he wasn’t ready have also been proven wrong.

    Still, I’m glad Melky is doing so well. Since he’s typically started slow, the fast start suggests he could be the RF next year. Slot Gardner in CF, with A-Jax on his way, and the Yankee OF is looking very good.

    • steve (different one)

      wait, how have those people been proven wrong? did i miss Gardner’s debut in the majors?

      if we are going on minor league stats, the trade would never even have been considered since Hughes and Kennedy would be considered aces.

      can’t have it both ways.

    • Jamie

      Agree with Steve on this one Rob.. I’m a huge fan of Brett and think he can succeed in the show but there are a number of other variables that haven’t been put in motion… he hasn’t been given the chance so we really do not know.

      Unrelated, (and i’m sure the 3 of you addressed this at time point) but the PECOTA projections for Melky are interesting to look at… (And I realize these are the players at 23 that he is being compared/similar to)

      1) Carlos Beltran
      2) Coco Crisp (meh)
      3) Pete Rose (?)
      4) Brian McRae (I used to kill with him in RBI baseball)

  • Bo

    Im glad the RAB guys can actually say they were wrong. Or at elast wrong right now. For all Yankee fans’ sake lets hope they bat 500

    Wrong on Melky
    Right on Hughes

  • Jamie

    Beltran and Rose’s 24 yr old seasons are off the charts… but i’m sure you have already guessed at Coco’s and McRae’s haha

  • My Pet Goat

    Yeah, this nitpicking has the benefit of a good month of hindsight. But it seems to me that 20 year olds that hold their own in the bigs (and some might argue that Melky did little more than keep a roster spot warm) tend to have productive careers. At the very least, Melk should provide excellent value up until he hits FA.
    As far as Chris’s comment about an article pegging Melk for a breakout. I think it was a baseball prospectus article, and named Franceour (sp?) among others as other potential candidates (due to the usual mix of age and gradual OPS increases). In fact, Rios might have been on that list as well.
    And people have to be more realistic about Bret. The burden of proof now rests solely on his MLB production. He’s at an age and experience level where AAA production needs to be taken with a cup of salt. Though the power has been nice.

  • The Bronx Stop

    I really could never understand the criticism of Melky Cabrera. I mean, the guy never got a chance to even settle into New York without people throwing him under the bus. You really have to take a guy like Melky Cabrera’s personality into account with his raw natural talent before you write a player like him off. I mean just last season, after a terrible start, Melky joined the team and took over daily duties in the outfield and the Yankees began to win. We are learning now that this was not a coincidence–Melky is a winner.

    I mean he would take some odd pattern’s going after some balls in the outfield, but he was so young, you honestly didn’t think he could correct those things? He never had a very powerful bat, but he had a live bat, and with a little coaching from a guy who took him under his wing this spring (Alex Rodriguez), and another guy named Kevin Long– Melky’s ceiling is only headed one direction, and that’s up.

    Melky is fast becoming a superstar and with his demeanor and charm I don’t know how you can’t be anything but happy for the kid (glad to see you have come to the right side, RAB).

    • My Pet Goat

      “You really have to take a guy like Melky Cabrera’s personality into account…”
      No, you don’t.

      “Melky is a winner.”
      More so than whom, Damon? Matsui? What does that mean?

      “…he had a live bat…”
      Please define ‘live bat’.

      “Melky is fast becoming a superstar…”
      Patently incorrect statement.

      “…with his demeanor and charm I don’t know how you can’t be anything but happy for the kid…”
      Double negative, but sure I’m pretty stoked the kid plays well.

      • Micky#7–Old Ranger

        “You really have to take a guy like Melky Cabrera’s personality into account…”
        No, you don’t.
        Yes you do, some people react differently then others. Some need a slap up side the head others…just a kind word.
        “Melky is a winner.”
        More so than whom, Damon? Matsui? What does that mean?
        It means he has been carrying the team for awhile…right?
        “…he had a live bat…”
        Please define ‘live bat’.
        The ball jumps off the bat…as if shot.
        “Melky is fast becoming a superstar…”
        Patently incorrect statement.
        Your right on this one.
        “…with his demeanor and charm I don’t know how you can’t be anything but happy for the kid…”
        He is a happy go lucky type of guy…be happy.

        Double negative, but sure I’m pretty stoked the kid plays well.
        I like this last part the best.

        Now, isn’t everyone happy?
        Just having a little fun MPG.

  • Rob_in_CT

    I’m liking what I’m seeing, but I’m also aware that Melky has put together stretches sorta like this before. Several of his HRs have been Yankee Stadium short-porchers.

    The key is sustaining this sort of work (even if the HRs drop off a bit). He’s OPSd ~.850 for a couple of months in the past, but he tends to then vanish for a month.

    He’s young, so it’s entirely possible he’s taking a real step forward. I certainly hope so. I’m a fan.

    • Chip

      A homerun is a homerun, he gets to play half his games with that short-porch which isn’t going away anytime soon. He had decent stretches before but when did he hit 6 homeruns in a month? The problem with him everyone had was “he’ll never hit for much power”, well I think he’s proving those critics wrong right now. The great thing is he’s doing it without swinging for the fences everytime.

      BTW, he hit one right-handed off of CC in Cleveland, no short porch there

  • adam b.

    I’m glad to see Melky get the love he deserves here I’ve always thought that it was far too early to decide whether he was going to be good or not in the long run because he was just so young, I mean as much as he deserved to be up last year he looked overmatched because he was still developing the tools that he is only really starting to show now. I don’t think his success here is a fluke he’s still very young and will only get better

  • Ricochet

    I’ve never been a big fan of his because beyond his arm I think his game is quite Vanilla. I liked the fact that he was like a little kid out there in that he looks as if he was having fun and it wasn’t so business like, like the majority of the club.

    I’m not sold that he’s the Yankees future CF, I’m happy for him and he’s done a good job but it’s only a month into a season so it doesn’t mean much at this point.

    I like what I’m seeing so far but I’m not going to get ahead of myself but whats encouraging is that he’s no longer looking like a player trying not to do something wrong and is just playing. In the past in AB’s he looked as if he was trying harder not to miss rather than try to hit and that led him to have a swing that was finesse rather than one trying to hit the ball solidly. Ever since he got called up other than an occasional times here and there his swing was weak and it drove me nuts and I would scream for him to swing the bat with some authority because until this year most of his hits seemed to me to be more lucky than skill. He had a ton of bloop and off the end of the bat hits but this year with him actually swing the bad hard and quick he’s getting quality hits often and his power is clearly up.

    • Micky 7 Old Ranger

      I hated the idea some had to trade him this winter (even though I like Brett Gardner), because he was our best option for the CF job. Now if and when they call up (or Waite until next year) Brett/Justin to play CF, Melky will move to RF.
      I, along with most of you, hope Melky keeps going on and on and is the player we hope he can be…very good, for 10/12 years. 27/08.

      • Ben K.

        I’m going to start holding your comments in moderation until you change your name. Drop the # and the two hyphens please. It’s messing up our commenting system.

        • Micky7 Old Ranger

          You got it Ben, thanks, I didn’t know. 27/08.

  • chris

    In a way, Melky’s devlopment is even more reason why you need to trade prospects smetimes. I say this because you can never tell who will be great and who will stink up the joint (with the exception o those special players – AROD and Jetes.

    just as no one could have predicted this type of success (myself included as I basehed him evey day last season), prospects who are supposed to be good are just as unpredictable

    I am hoping Kennedy is back up soon. Regardless of what managment said publicly, when you start two rookies and plan to add another midseason, the goal of this year was development and they were not expecting to contend. This better be a move to get his mechanics back or maybe confidence, but he needs to be on the big league team. If not, then the Yankees are essentially scapping their plans to rebuild the pitching staff thus endangering IPK’s career, or puting us in the position of having to watch them start all over with the big three experiment next year

    • Chip

      I disagree, I think the plan was always to win this year. Otherwise you don’t sign Posada and Rivera, maybe one but not both. I just hope Melky can have about the same career as Bobby Abreu, line-drive hitter with occasional power.

    • My Pet Goat

      I love the concept of a rebuilding year that gets bandied about the RAB message boards. Are you expecting an 86 win season? Is that what rebuilding looks like? For most teams rebuilding doesn’t involve a PECOTA projection of 95 wins. You’re mistaking a substantial philosophy shift in roster building for a complete tear-down. So instead of Carlos Silva, the Yanks have a couple of kids getting torched (oops, I forgot my message board etiquette: TORCHED!!!). That said, throwing your arms up in the air and saying, “It’s a crap shoot! We’re better off trading prospects for proven veterans (read: all the free agents years, none of the prime), cause who could have guessed Melky Cabrera could hit?” is part of the reason that baseball (and the Yankees particularly) was such a poorly managed sport. If it’s part of your organizational mission to develop prospects as assets for your big league club, you damn better make it your business to learn how to project and predict their performances. Beyond that it might be a good idea to figure out the attrition rate for top prospects. What percentage pan out? What percentage exceed or underperform expectations? Without a firm grasp on those numbers you’re going to make deals like Brian Sabean or Steve Philips. And you should thank your frickin’ rosary beads that neither of those guys is the Yankees GM.

      So Chris, while I appreciate the difficulties you have in determining the worth of prospects, I have to say I’d prefer a more informed approach to the management of young ballplayers.

  • barry

    I always had high hopes, especially after looking at the beginning of another great Yankee CFer’s career, Bernie Williams. Hopefully the Melk-man can deliver like Bernie did.