After surviving their epic losing streak, the Stockton Ports have finally leveled out and are churning out consistent production from all aspects of the squad. Miles Head and A.J. Kirby-Jones continue to steer the Ports offensive attack, Sean Murphy has received a warm welcome to the California League and is leading the Stockton staff, and their previously spotty defense has improved. Just as draft day passed for the Oakland A's, the Ports finished off a dominating sweep over their South Bay adversaries, the San Jose Giants, an unexpected achievement for a Ports' team sitting near the bottom of the division standings. Oakland also did something unexpected in the draft room, using their first initial three selections on high schoolers. The previous instance where this occurred for the A's was in 1978.
Of those selections, Oakland chose two polished prep phenoms at 11th and 34th overall in Addison Russell and Daniel Robertson, both of whom play on the leftside of the infield. Russell and Robinson could potentially be battling for playing time on the leftside of the infield with another recent pick of the A's out of high school, Yordy Cabrera. Two years after being selected by the A's in the second round, Cabrera is still searching for consistency, having struggled in his previous minor league assignment with Low-A Burlington in 2011. With Russell and Robertson potentially hot on his tail, Cabrera will be looking for a strong season with the Stockton Ports to distance himself from the A's 2012 draft class.
Cabrera was born and raised in the Dominican Republic until the age of 14, when his father accepted the post as manager of the Detroit Tigers Gulf Coast League club. The entire Cabrera clan moved to Florida, where eventually the shortstop with a rich background in baseball would blossom into one of the most coveted high school prospects in the nation.
"There's not that big of a difference," Cabrera said of his surroundings in the Dominican compared to the US. "Just the cold weather [in the US], probably."
Cabrera would attend Lakeland High School in Florida, where he suited up as a third baseman and served as the team closer. He reportedly grazed 95 MPH on the mound, compiling a 2.15 ERA his junior season before abandoning pitching after struggling during his senior season. Cabrera truly shined as a position player, however, hitting .462/.546/.675 his junior season while walloping four homers and five doubles that season. His senior season would see a slight regression statistically (.333/.500/.622), but Cabrera continued to impress scouts and casual observers alike with his raw tools. Cabrera would increase his profile significantly leading into the 2010 draft by besting Bryce Harper in the AFLAC Home Run derby in San Diego.
As the 2010 draft began, teams bypassed Cabrera in the first round, citing his firm commitment to the University of Miami and concerns over his plate discipline, however. Early in the second round, Cabrera's name would finally come off of the board at 60th overall to Oakland. Cabrera was now faced with a difficult decision between going to college or entering the pros.
"Everybody was expecting me to get drafted in the first or second round," Cabrera said. "But, my family was very huge into school and I was leaning towards school more than professional baseball. It was a decision me and my family had to sit down and discuss, and eventually we came to the conclusion that I'd play baseball and here I am."
Cabrera would accept a $1.25 million bonus from the A's to turn pro. He signed just before the August signing deadline and would receive an immediate assignment to the Arizona Rookie League. Cabrera's AZL stint was brief, as he went 3-16 with one double, four walks, and five strikeouts over the course of five games. Cabrera's first full pro season would take place in Burlington the following year in what would have been his freshman campaign at the University of Miami.
Cabrera participated in 101 games for the Bees as their everyday shortstop and flashed his strengths throughout his Iowa stay, smacking 21 doubles, five triples, and six homers, while swiping 23 bases in 29 attempts. Despite those positive numbers, Cabrera's season was a struggle offensively overall. With the Bees, he posted only a 7.7 BB% while striking out in nearly a third of his at-bats. He also walked less than a third of the times he struck-out. All of this resulted in a mediocre .231/.298/.368 statline.
During the off-season, Cabrera participated in the A's fall Instructional League and then he was invited to an early spring training program for a select group of A's minor leaguers. Thanks to his early spring workload, Cabrera was used as a pinch-hitter in one of the A's major league split-squad games. In the contest, Cabrera delivered a decisive 9th inning solo homerun to lift the A's to a victory over Chicago in what would be his only big league spring plate appearance this year.
"It was a really good experience," Cabrera said.
"Being around the big leaguers and to see how they act, talk and how positive they are outside and inside of the clubhouse was awesome. And being able to hit that home run was incredible."
Cabrera was swinging the bat well this spring when his progress was interrupted by a back injury. When camp broke in early April, he would remain in Arizona for extended spring training to rehab his back. Cabrera wouldn't make his regular season debut until May 15th in Bakersfield, when he joined the High-A Stockton Ports.
Thus far, the rust has still been evident for Cabrera, as the shortstop is batting only .187/.238/.200 in 20 contests as a Port. He has also struggled defensively, committing eight errors. He had 38 miscues his previous season in Burlington.
"Right now I just need to stay focused," Cabrera said. "I need to prepare for the pitches that'll be coming to me and take care of my business."
At 21-years-old, Cabrera is one of the youngest players on the Ports' roster (only Max Stassi, Nino Leyja and Miles Head are younger). Despite his early struggles, much is still expected of Cabrera, who coming out of the draft garnered comparisons to several major league stars. For his part, Cabrera is set upon paving his own path as he continues his growth on the baseball field.
"I don't really pay attention to comparisons," Cabrera said.
"It feels great to get compared to those top guys, but I think everybody is their own person and it's my job to live up to my expectations and not someone else's. I just have to work hard and give my best every day."