Melky Going Forward

BP’s Joe Sheehan is a little more optimistic than I am about Melky Cabrera. Sheehan lists Melky as a breakout candidate in his latest piece.

Cabrera went backwards in ’07, but not by enough for concern. Remember
that he is just 23 years old and has more than 1100 plate appearances
in the majors, with average to average-plus defense (good physical
tools, but very raw, takes bad routes) and a very good 129/96 K/BB.
He is a mature player offensively, patient at the plate and fair on the
bases (25-for-35 stealing in his career). One interesting quirk is his G/F ratio, which is 1.63 for his career and was a whopping 1.81 last season. 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.

You hear that, Melky? Your swing needs more of an uppercut.

I hope Sheehan is right. And I wonder if the Yanks agree. It doesn’t seem like it.

6 comments… add one
  • I love Melky to death, but Sheehan really believes this, I surely could use whatever it is he’s smoking!

    yankeemonkey January 15, 2008, 10:29 pm
  • Age 22 seasons:
    Player A – .238 .336 .350, 320 AB, 3 HR, 34 RBI
    Player B – .253 .288 .348, 451 AB, 4 HR, 30 RBI
    Player C – .273 .327 .391, 545 AB, 8 HR, 73 RBI
    Yeah so:
    Player A = Bernie Williams
    Player B = Roberto Clemente
    Player C = Melky Cabrera
    Both Bernie and Clemente struggled for two more seasons before both breaking out at age 25. It’s really amazing how quickly people can bury a 22 year old. But yeah, he qualifies as a breakout season candidate.

    A YF January 15, 2008, 10:58 pm
  • Sheehan may be all alone on that one.
    ZiPS projections for Melky’s 2008: .286/.352/.419, 12 HR, 47 XBH
    Bill James ditto: .283/.345/.405, 10 HR, 41 XBH
    So a decent improvement from 2007 and a slight improvement from 2006.
    Let’s say a high-upside projection for Melky Cabrera is Bernie Williams. Presumable, Yankee fans would be thrilled with that. Williams never hit 80 XBH hits in a season (his career high was 73 in 2000). Williams actually had some similar years to Cabrera in his first four seasons.
    Cabrera’s B-R comps (of which Williams isn’t one) are an interesting mix: Three Hall of Famers, including Roberto Clemente and Harry Heilman, but only four players who slugged above .400 the rest of their careers.
    So it seems likely that Cabrera has a long and successful career ahead of him (his comps lasted an average of 11 seasons beyond Cabrera’s age), but not as an 80-XBH player. An odd prediction from Sheehan…

    Paul SF January 15, 2008, 11:01 pm
  • Melky easily beats those projections. His 2007 season looks a lot worse because he tired in Sept. Before that he was on pace for .300/.350/.450. Sheehan spots the extreme groundball rate. And he’s right. When Melky’s going good he elevates the ball. Certainly seems like something a stocky 22 year old can learn to be more consistent about.

    A YF January 15, 2008, 11:33 pm
  • By the way, Melky was a full-time player two years before Bernie.

    A YF January 15, 2008, 11:34 pm
  • I think my pessimism–if you want to call it that–about Melky is related to what I’ve read about him for a few years now and my aesthetic response to his game. Generally, he was never a huge prospect per scouts who didn’t see the power ever developing. But a piece like this, by a guy who I respect, does give me pause. It makes wonder if I’m being too cavalier about his inclusion in the Johan trade talks.

    Nick-YF January 16, 2008, 10:13 am

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