PP 2004 Scouting Report: OF, Melky Cabrera

Last year, Melky Cabrera burst onto the scene as an 18 year old in Staten Island. In 2004, he showed us once again, just why he should be considered one of the best outfield prospects in the minor leagues today.

Vital Statistics
Name: Melky Cabrera
Position: Centerfield
DOB: August 11, 1984
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 168
Bats: Switch
Throws: Left
How Acquired: Melky Cabrera was signed in 2002 out of the Dominican Republic for $175,000 and was assigned to the Yankees Dominican Summer League team.

Melky Cabrera started his young Yankee career playing for the New York Yankees Dominican Republic Summer League team and immediately blew away scouts with his overall talent at the age of only age of 18 years old. He flashed his tremendous centerfield abilities and his hard nosed style of play. His strong throwing arm only added to his impressive summer audition. Consistently, he ran down balls in center and to hit the ball hard on a consistent basis. Melky showed that he could hit with some pop to any part of the ballpark from each side of the plate. Even though he was free swinging and still is now, which is highly common in very young ballplayers, Melky Cabrera displayed the ability to make contact routinely and keep his strikeout numbers low.

Cabrera picked up right where he left off in his first campaign as a Staten Island Yankee where he was the overwhelming pick by many scouts as the teams best offensive player until a man named Eric Duncan came around in August. Throughout the season, he became a steady force in the lineup along with sparkling defense in centerfield. Melky also showcased a rare ability for a young player. He handled himself extremely well as the leadoff man and that would have ramifications on his next season as well. His entire season was signified in a stretch of 16 games in July. During this stretch Cabrera hit .420 with 4 doubles, a triple, 8 RBI, and 4 stolen bases. Cabrera's lack of power during this stretch and throughout the entire season as well was, for the most part, a non-factor when you consider the rest of his natural baseball tools and on different occasions has been described by people close to the team as "toolsy". However, scouts do predict that his youth, slight build and lack of body maturity at the time was perhaps the only reason for his power outage.

This 2004 season was a dream ride for Melky Cabrera. He, in one season, went from a guy that some people merely knew his name to a highly thought of prospect within the organization. The bottom line that people are starting to realize is that he is just that good and his performance should not come as a surprise. After hitting a lofty .333 with a .383 OBP in Battle Creek, he was sent up to Tampa at the age of only 19 years old. For a Yankee organization that is known to be conservative, it speaks volumes about Cabrera's ability. It appears that, as a prospect, he is on the rise. He has made defensive improvements this season and has learned to track the ball much better. In fact, he has been called one of the top defensive outfielders in the Midwest League and the Florida State League. However, his bat is the main attraction in his game. Melky creates an exciting atmosphere when he is hitting and can steal a bag at any point in the game. If his patience can improve and he can add it in with the way he has performed with the bat in 2004, he will be an electric style player of the future for the New York Yankees. Scouts around the league claimed from the beginning of the 2004 season that Cabrera could play at a much higher level than Low A Battle Creek. It did not take long for him to just that. High A Tampa brought him in to take over he leadoff and center field duties. He set up the heavy hitting Tampa lineup nicely to create lots of RBI opportunities for the heavy hitters in the middle of the order like Shelley Duncan. Also, later in the season, he got the chance to be one of their run producers. That's right, he started hitting for power.

After performing so well in Tampa for the remainder of this season, there is not much doubt that he will see action for the AA Trenton Thunder by next season. The fact that he has performed at such a high level at only 19 and now 20 years old in high A ball is remarkable and it seems that the organization is starting to see that very clearly as well. The only complaint about Cabrera when he was promoted to Tampa has now evaporated. When he was promoted, he had zero home runs and through his first month with Tampa he also had none. But from July on, it seemed that he had discovered the power stroke. He ended the season with 8 home runs. Yes, many of his numbers suffered a bit in Tampa but he more than held his own offensively in a pitcher friendly league. "All of his tools are just so solid and he knows how to play the game. He is so young and already is such a good player," said Battle Creek Yankees Manager, Bill Mosiello in regards to Cabrera. That is something we are starting to hear quite often. Melky Cabrera just knows how to play the game of baseball.

Being that his 2004 season was only his first full season as a professional player in the organization, it can hardly be a gage of what is to come in the career of Melky Cabrera. "Melky just looks like a terrific young player," says Yankee Minor League coach and 2003 Staten Island Yankee Manager, Andy Stankiewicz. "People are going to get to know his name better this season. Once he started hitting for power when he went to Tampa, he now has the complete package. He looks like he can play the outfield with the best of them and just knows how to play the game. For a young player, he is so impressive. Cabrera is a mature player, no doubt about it. He could make a big splash next season I think." This seems to be the case with everyone. There is nothing but praise for Melky Cabrera. He has now displayed all of the five tools that scouts projected that he would someday have along with the intangibles of playing the game the way it was meant to be played. Cabrera's arm has become a strong threat to any base runner and his good range in centerfield may only be second to fellow top prospect Kevin Thompson. An improving eye at the plate and his natural ability to hit for contact has allowed him to become an outstanding leadoff hitter and improving everyday. However, with his now developing power, he could be more of a middle of the order hitter as well.


Year

Team

AVG

AB

2b

HR

RBI

R

SB BB SO OBP

SLG

2004

Battle Creek

.333

171

16

0

16

35

7 15 23 .383

.462

2004

Tampa

.288

333

20

8

51

48

3 23 59 .341

.438



Batting and Power. It seems that Melky Cabrera has put to bed any ideas that he couldn't hit with any power this year with Battle Creek. Melky has hit the ball and with authority. It is expected that over time, Melky will become much more of a power hitter much to the similarity of Andruw Jones. But right now, he likes to spray the ball to all fields and can hit the ball to any part of the park with force at any time. However, his walk totals are slightly low for an ideal leadoff hitter this season but his OBP has improved vastly from his 2003 campaign. What is also impressive are his low strikeout totals which will eventually add to his leadoff hitting abilities. But, if his power continues to improve like it has, he may outgrow the leadoff spot and move into a middle of the order spot. With his gaudy numbers, it appears that Cabrera is going to be a hitter that hits for a high batting average in the Major Leagues someday.

Base Running and Speed. Cabrera has tremendous speed and uses it to his advantage in the leadoff spot and in the outfield. Many scouts believe that despite his fairly low stolen base total of 13 in his 2003 campaign and only 10 in 2004, he will eventually be a consistent 20-30 stolen base candidate as he continues to improve on his now average base running skills. Even though he does utilize that speed in the outfield, scouts tend to call him a "drifter" because of the fact that he does not run straight to the ball. That also could very well come with age and experience in center field. And, with his speed, he can many times compensate for his mistakes.

Defense. As a benefit of his great speed, Cabrera is an above average center fielder for his age. The only player in the farm system that tops his defense is the Trenton Thunder's Kevin Thompson. Melky has a very solid throwing arm that kept runners at bay during the 2003 season due to it's excellent accuracy. Overall, his defense is well known by scouts as a strong aspect of his game. However, he will need to improve some of the reads he gets on the ball. His great speed many times compensates for the bad reads and routes to the ball he has. He seems to get a good jump when the ball comes off the bat but relies on his speed to make up for misjudgments.

Projection. At this point in his career it is getting harder and harder to deny the fact that Melky Cabrera looks like a star outfielder of the future. Melky has gone out in 2004 and proved to the fullest of his ability that 2003 was not a fluke. He has flown up the top prospect charts and is opening a lot of eyes around baseball. There is an excellent chance that he could be a star player in the major leagues in the next two or three years.

ETA. 2006. Right now it is very hard to tell. He could possibly make his debut in 2006 and compete for a starting job. This is only if all goes well and he has no setbacks which is always possible in a young career. It almost seems like a lock that Cabrera will begin the 2005 season with AA Trenton and just may make a leap to AAA Columbus if his performance continues on it's current path. Then, he could have a chance to make it with the big club in 2006.


Pinstripes Plus Top Stories