Second Lefty Poll: Rapada or Cabral?

2012 Season Preview: The Closer
Early season trade candidates: hold or deal?
Hooray for funky lefties. (Paul Sancya/AP)

It as appears as though the Yankees only have one open relief spot at the moment, assuming the loser of the Phil Hughes/Freddy Garcia fifth starter competition heads to the bullpen. With three rounds of roster cuts already in the books, the number of realistic candidates for that last spot is down to just two: left-handers Clay Rapada and Cesar Cabral.

The Yankees have been looking for a second left-handed reliever for a few too many years, but now they appear to have a pair of qualified candidates. Rapada and Cabral share handedness but not much else. They’re different pitchers with different styles at different points of their careers. Which one is a better fit for the Yankees?

The Case for Rapada
A 31-year-old journeyman, Rapada has impressed by retiring all but one of the 12 left-handed batters he’s faced this spring. The one exception is a walk (after getting ahead in the count 0-2, no less), but he’s atoned by striking out seven of the remaining 11 batters. Rapada’s big league track record is limited, though he has held the 136 lefties he’s faced to a .153/.252/.200 batting line with a 26.5% strikeout rate. His Triple-A track record is more of the same.

Rapada has been groomed as a lefty specialist since the day he signed with the Cubs as an undrafted free agent in 2002. They dropped his arm angle almost immediately, and now he relies of the deception of his sidearm motion more than sheer stuff — mid-80s heat with a mid-70s slider — to get same-side hitters out. He’s a true LOOGY and has excelled in the role over the last few years. There should be no growing pains.

The Case for Cabral
Cabral, a 23-year-old taken from the Red Sox (via the Royals) in this past offseason’s Rule 5 Draft has impressed as well this spring. He hasn’t been as good as Rapada, but he’s struck out eight of the 20 left-handers he’s faced while allowing six hits and walking zero. One of those hits was a homer. Cabral moved to the bullpen full time to start the 2010 season, and since then he’s held same-side hitters to a .202/.263/.294 batting line with a 35.4% strikeout rate in 133 PA. That’s mostly at High-A with a little Low-A and Double-A mixed in.

The Yankees obviously like Cabral, otherwise they wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of trading up in the Rule 5 Draft to get him. He’s more of a power pitcher than Rapada, sitting in the low-90s with a changeup and a slurvy slider. The changeup is his best secondary pitch, which theoretically means Cabral could face some right-handed batters and at least hold his own. He has all three minor league options remaining and is under team control through at least 2017. With zero Triple-A or MLB experience, there figures to be more than the usual ups and downs associated with young pitchers.

* * *

Unless something unexpected happens, the Yankees can only break camp with one of the two. Rapada can opt out of his minor league deal at the end of Spring Training, and he’ll surely get a job elsewhere given his spring performance. Because he is out of minor league options, the Yankees won’t be able to add Rapada to the 40-man roster and send him to Triple-A. Cabral simply won’t clear waivers as a Rule 5 Draft pick, he’s been too impressive as well.

The last bullpen spot won’t sink the season, and as far as I’m concerned, there’s really no wrong answer here. Both Rapada and Cabral are worthy of being the second left-handed reliever on a contending team.

Who should the Yankees take as the second lefty?
View Results
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2012 Season Preview: The Closer
Early season trade candidates: hold or deal?
  • Cesar “Stairs” Cabral

    *taking notes*

    • Havok9120

      At least you know who your next target needs to be.

      • Cesar “Stairs” Cabral

        RIP Axisa for asking stupid question like this.

  • Dan

    We already have a ready-for-primetime TSOOL in Boone Logan, so why not take a chance on a youngster like Cabral?

  • Rip Torn

    although i votedx for cabral, the real answer is Pat VINDETTE for the win

    • Don W

      The left handed PV for the win and the right handed PV picks up the save.

    • Cesar “Stairs” Cabral

      RIP Torn

  • http://Twitter.com/Jmarlowescully Scully

    I’d take the chance with Cabral since his is a youngster and could potentially develop into a shut down loogy. The dude’s only 23, that’s young by pitching standards. Plus, he’s been pretty good.

    • STONE COLD Austin Romine

      He can get right handers out.

      Why just stop at being a loogy ? Of course you’d want his stuff to play better against lefties but not at the expense of being useless against RHB like Rapada.

      Just my opinion.

      • emac2

        Amen!

        It seems very strange to compare pitchers and ignore their stats against right handed hitters in the write up.

  • STONE COLD Austin Romine

    I’d roll the dice with Cabral.

    • Cesar “Stairs” Cabral

      I like you, Stone Cold Austin Romine. You speak da truth.

  • voIII

    Trade Logan and keep em both! Logan has had a mediocre spring. Rapada seems to be more effective against leftys than Logan and Cabral has much more potential than Logan.

    • Havok9120

      Yesssss, let us trade the only known commodity for two maybes based purely on Spring Training.

      Sigh.

      The season needs to start. We’re going insane with Spring Training results.

      • mustang

        Havok9120 has now become my favor commenter.

        Agree 100%.

      • voIII

        Glad you seem to know what we’re getting every time Logan takes the mound, cause I sure don’t. Rapada is no more of an unknown that Logan and has been much more effective against Lefty’s… Cabral has much higher upside than Logan. If one can figure out a way to keep all three then do it. If not see what you can get for Logan. His value even though much less effective than Rapada in doing his only job (getting Left handed Batters out),is probably higher than the other two just because of perception.

  • RetroRob

    Cabral, and I’m saying that as someone who has wanted the Yankees to pick up Rapada for over eighteen months as a cheap LOOGY.

    Yet, there’s a better chance Cabral can fill the Phil Coke-type reliever role, making him more valuable. Rapada will be available again in a matter of months. That’s his fate in MLB. Some team will always have a need for him, and some team will always be moving him. Cabral has more upside, which means he’s a more difficult type of reliever to acquire.

    Last, if the Yankees don’t take Cabral, then they end up returning him to the Red Sox, who can insert him right in their bullpen after watching what he’s done this spring. I’d rather they’d give him to some team in the NL that will keep him on the roster than give him back to the Red Sox.

    • Brian

      Cabrel is a2 time Rule 5 guy meaning if he cleared waivers, which I don’t see happening, he would become a free agent.

    • CJ

      Cashman hinted at this in booth with Suzyn and Jon Sunday. He said rapada destroyed Boston lefties in September and is “responsible for Boston missing playoffs” said Cabral “definitely will not be returned as he as generated a lot of buzz around MLB with his spring ” so I’m guessing rapada stays, cabral gets traded or possibly Logan traded.

  • mustang

    I like the kid because of upside we know what Rapada has done in MLB already Cabral could be more.

  • Now Batting

    I would take Rapada. He has better numbers against lefties in MLB than Cabral has had in the minors. Yes he’s young but his second pitch is a change up, not great for same sided hitters.

    • Cesar “Stairs” Cabral

      RIP No Longer Batting

  • Guest

    I think they should go with Rapada, and this isn’t particularly close.

    Cabral clearly has the better upside, better stuff, and a better shot against righties. But right now, I think it’s pretty clear that Rapada has a better track record of getting lefties out, and absolutely nothing else matters when you are looking at your second LOOGY.

    Frankly, the fact that Cabral has a shot against righties is not material to me. It would maybe be material if the Yanks had a thin pen and you would want your second lefty to be able to face some righties. The Yanks have an absolutely stacked bullpen. I would prefer that neither Rapada nor Cabral face a righty over anybody else in the bullpen.

    Taking a second LOOGY seems to be a vast waste of resources when there are talented guys like Warren, Mitchell, and Phelps who could fill the role that Nova and Noesi filled last year. But if you’re going to do it, take the guy who is best at getting lefties out. And that’s Rapada.

    This is the test: Early August, Sixth inning, bases loaded, 5-5 game, and the starter is spent. Ortiz? Do you want the LOOGY who is young and might be serviceable against righties (though not likely to be nearly as good as Garcia, Robertson, Soriano, Wade, or (hopefully) Chamberlain), or do you want the guy who gets out lefties?

    • Guest

      that should be “gets out lefties on a more consistent basis.”

      • Cesar “Stairs” Cabral

        RIP Guest. No need to make correction on post, as you are dead man.

    • http://facebook Jay

      Well said

  • Tom Lin

    Cabral >> Rapada , IMO.

  • http://thegreedypinstripes.com Bryan V

    The best point I’ve read here is that the Yankees already have Logan, so this second lefty is not that important. So it makes sense to take the kid and try to see what he can develop into.

    If the difference between the two were that big then things would be different, but in this case you may as well go with the younger guy.

  • Sweet Dick Willie

    They can keep them both, if they don’t think that Cory Wade will repeat his 2011 season (I don’t think he will).

    • CP

      Doesn’t Wade have an option left?

  • bg90027

    I reject the premise that the 25th spot has to go to a second LOOGY or even a pitcher. If the question is who they should keep, I’m going to say Maxwell.

    That said, it will be a second lefty. It’s real close but I’d probably go with Rapada. He’s had success in the majors against lefties and perhaps more importantly I don’t see Giradi being able to come up with a nickname for him. He’ll be Clay where Cabral might be “Cabrally”

    What happens if they trade Garcia and have two open spots? Warren and a LOOGY?

    • Guest

      You clearly forgot about “Rappy.”

      • TheEvilUmpire

        Or “Crappy” after a 3-run homer.

    • Fernando

      OMG, some of those nicknames are SO effin annoying like HUGHESY. A nickname is supposed to be shorter!

  • cranky

    Rapada is a LOOGY, if ever anyone were a LOOGY. And he’d be good in that role.
    But Cabral has the potential to be more than that.
    Plus, the Yanks could lose Cabral if he doesn’t make the big league team.
    Gotta keep Cabral.

  • Monterowasdinero

    As long as your opponent can pinch hit and with an eye toward getting more than one out or, God forbid, more than 2….

    go with Cabral.

    • Cesar “Stairs” Cabral

      You are a smart man, Monterowasdinero. You need to get over your love for Jesus Montero, though, as he is long gone. It is not good for your mental health. Listen to Stairs. Stairs has done lots of bad things in his life. Poor Karter Chamberlain now has a daddy with one foot, but I let it go.

      • bg90027

        You raise a good point there. That was an oversight on my part. Still, I think “Rappy” is preferrable to “Cabrally” and vastly superior to “Caesey”. He also has the potential upside of being “Clay”

        • bg90027

          Not sure why the post ended up there than below Guest. He was the one I was responding to.

    • steve (different one)

      but teams don’t pinch hit for their star LHers.

      Just as we don’t want an inferior LHed reliever on the mound b/c of matchups, teams don’t pull their best hitters for bench bats.

      the ability to come in and get out guys like Ortiz, A-Gon, Fielder, etc has real value.

  • Monterowasdinero

    Cabral.

    As long as teams can pinch hit and as long as we may need more than one out or, heaven forbid, more than one inning, he is the better option.

  • Guest

    If Cabral were an honest to goodness real prospect with a chance to be an above mediocre bullpen arm, I would see holding on to him for his “potential.”

    Am I wrong, or isn’t his ceiling most likely “mediocre bullpen arm”?
    It’s not like we’re trying to find out what Adam Warren might be here. I mean this is the second time he’s been drafted in the Rule 5 draft. Not exactly a glowing endorsement (and his numbers, in the low minors, don’t really provide a glowing counter).

    So if Cabral’s potential isn’t that great, shouldn’t they go with the LOOGY who’s best at LOOGY-ing (Rapada)?

    (And, I agree. This spot shouldn’t go to either pitcher. But if they’re going to LOOGY, they should aim for maximum LOOG-itude).

    • Cesar “Stairs” Cabral

      Cabron.

  • Fernando

    At the sake of being blasphemous, I will paraphrase Matthew 22:21 – “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s….” And the 25th spot belongs to the differently spelled Cesar Cabral.

    The performance has been more or less the same, so going Cabral for the following reasons.
    1) He has the potential to be be more than just a loogy
    2) He is less expensive
    3) He is cost-control Cabral for a longer time
    4) If I choose Rapada, Cesar “Stairs” Cabral will tell me to RIP.

  • Rookie

    Keep Rapada as your LOOGY and sign Cabral as a free agent.

  • Fernando

    Cabral has to clear waivers and he won’t based on the way he has pitched.

  • nsalem

    Rapada’s OPS lifetimes versus lefties is .472 as opposed to .704 for Logan. David Robertson lifetime vs lefties is .603 and last year he was at .466. In my mind Logan has been competent no better no worse. If the FO thinks highly enough of Cabral it may be very possible that Logan could be the odd man out. On this staff I think that Rapada is the one that offers the most of the three candidates. Logan with another pitching prospect may be able to fill an offensive need for the Yankees. Another good problem for the Yankees.

  • STONE COLD Austin Romine

    Perfect case scenario … Sell high on Wade (which is pretty damn impossible given his spotty september & spring training thus far) & keep Cabral & Rapada

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      There’s no such thing as selling high, especially with someone like Wade. Even at his absolute best, what was he bringing back in a trade. A Grade-C prospect maybe? Just keep the bullpen depth, he has an option left.

      • Sweet Dick Willie

        So if Wade has an option left, and Rapada and Cabral don’t, then they should option Wade and keep the other two.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          Too many lefties. Girardi won’t be able to contain himself.

          • steve (different one)

            He’ll use Cabral and his change-up against RHers, just like he used Edwar against LHers…

        • DM

          Not crazy. Esp if Garcia is in the pen to start the year — and Cabral can be given a longer look against big league RH hitters. If he can only be a loogy then you make your decision and call Wade back up.

      • Ted Nelson

        It’s not easy to get it right most of the time, but sure you can sell high. (Not necessarily with Wade, but in general.)

        • Ted Nelson

          And not “in general” like you can do it all the time… but there are instances where you expect a guys future value to be lower than another team/expect the guy(s) coming back to have higher values than the other team… and your analysis proves right. Luck is definitely involved, but over a large enough sample so is skill.

    • emac2

      Good call. He pitched well enough to earn a MLB job so he should have some value and since he isn’t going to get more value in the future we should sell him now before his value goes down even more.

  • Gonzo

    I am steering clear of this one. I am too scared of “Stairs” to make a stand either way.

    *looks over shoulder

    I’m outta here.

  • LiterallyFigurative

    I’d go with Rapada. He’s better than Cabral.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go down “Stairs”………. Sure hope nothing bad happens to me……

    /notmeanttobefactual’d

    • LiterallyFigurative

      Seriously, I think Cabral makes more sense, since he’s got better stuff. Logan is the true LOOGY on the team, while Cabral can be an inning guy.

    • Cesar “Stairs” Cabral

      You and Gonzo are very smart people.

      Stairs is bloodthirsty, though.

      RIP Ben Kabak. Always commenting on other blogs, never taking time for his own site. MTA still sucks. If I was Axisa, I’d have fired you years ago.

      RIP Ted Nelson and DM. Always fighting like little girls. Hurts my concentration. May give up GW-HR to Big Papi because of you two.

      RIP Robinson Tilapia. No one knows what the fock your screen name means.

      RIP TSJC and Congressman Mondesi. You all used to post every 20 seconds and not let anyone else get a friggin word in. Now you’re gone. Makes Stairs sad and, u know, Big Papi…

      RIP Brad Meyers and Adam Miller. Innings could have gone to Stairs, avoiding dumb Axisa column and question, sparing life of so many.

      RIP Hannah.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I don’t know what the fock my screen name means either.

      • DM

        I hope the Yankees dump Cabral just so this overused joke can be put to rest.

        RIP “Stairs”

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Don’t like it when it hits close to home, eh?

          • DM

            What hits close to home? I hit lefties HARD.

          • DM

            Sorry, I get it now. This is the 2nd time I’ve have taken a shot at the “Stairs” joke. Forgive me.

        • jsbrendog

          this above >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>any convo you and ted nelson have ever had/you whining about mods/sooo many other things you’re involved in

          • DM

            Ooooh. I get it. My debates with Ted = 1 specific joke used over and over. And when I make a joke about the joke, it’s baaaad, I guess. I can take being accused of whining and fighting like a little girl. But I guess you felt the need to defend your girlfriend by whining about my whining. Gotcha.

      • jsbrendog

        this was awesome.

        how i miss the good ol days sometimes hahaha

  • Jesse

    Rapada, he destroys lefty batters against MLB competition, if used correctly by Girardi he’d be a steal.

    • Cesar “Stairs” Cabral

      RIP Jesse. Too bad. Great future ahead of him, that kid. Good head on his shoulders.

      • Jesse

        :(

  • Mark from Chicago

    Mike – why not take them both and then release or trade Boone Logan?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Because Logan’s pretty good himself and has a much longer track record.

      • nsalem

        I bet you never thought you’d be saying that two years ago.

  • http://facebook Jay

    Yankee Loogy = Rapada
    Those saying, and I’m paraphrasing “young guy good”, “he got stuff”, “he young and better”. Uhhhh you’re wrong! If they were looking for a young pitcher to get in the mix then maybe, they are not, they are LOOKING FOR A SPECIALIST, that would be rapada.

  • steve (different one)

    Question: if they take Cabral, does he have to stay on the 25 man the entire season because he is a rule V guy? Maybe it is more likely now that Joba is likely out for the season, but what are the odds that he lasts the entire year in the bigs?

    I like the idea of optioning Wade and keeping both of them.

  • Ted Nelson

    I guess ideally they get Cabral to stay with the org. in AAA (or even let him start in AA) and keep Rapada too… but if I have to choose one I went Cabral.

  • Tom

    How many teams have 2 LOOGY’s in the pen? I’m not talking two lefty arms, but two lefty specialists. (For example guys like Sean Marhsall or Venters are not LOOGY’s)

    I still don’t see why this has become a narrative of how bullpens are (or should be) built.

    And while Logan was impressive last year against righties, using 1 year left/right splits on relievers is basically step up from spring training splits in terms of utility… his career #’s still say LOOGY.

    The problem becomes who pitches in relatively late (6/7/8/9) innings when the Yankees are trailing by 2-3 runs and Girardi doesn’t want to burn his “good” relievers. Wade can cover an inning or two, after that do you go to the long reliever? Pray Rapada/Logan can get righties out? Garcia? (though this has to be spaced out)

    • Ted Nelson

      Not sure your concerns are valid.

      Cabral is pretty decidedly not a LOOGY. I believe he has a reverse split in the minors.

      And Girardi was comfortable using Logan for full innings in 2010 when he wasn’t getting righties out.

      “after that do you go to the long reliever?”

      Garcia or Wade figures to be the “long reliever.” So, sure you can go to them in a close game if they perform as expected.

  • RetroRob

    Keep both.

    Trade Logan.

    Or if Wade has an option left, send him to the minors for the first month when the Yankees can see Cabral, Rapada and Logan in action in April against good teams with a lot of tought lefty hitters in the lineup. One of the losers of the audition goes away and Wade returns.

  • Joe fushnickens

    you all are crazy…. Rapada all the way Cabral isnt ready or facing big names…. stop letting bloggers and things on the web control you judgment… u are all sheep!