Prospects’ Progress: Martin and Cabrera

Welcome to the Hot Stove Season. The Cubs made a nice signing, and then Miami packed up their major league roster and mailed them to Canada. Not only did the balance of power in the AL East just lurch towards the north, but the dynamic of the winter just changed as well. Scratch Miami and Toronto as free agent players of any significance, factor in Baltimore possibly needing to respond, add in the relative instability of the Yankees as they watch the division shift without them, and suddenly the Winter Meetings start to take on a bit of a different tone.

So what does the Minor League Editor do as the baseball world collectively goes nuts? Takes suggestions from Twitter, that’s what. Thanks to readers Tommy Cook and Stan Croussett, Trey Martin will be featured in today’s Prospects’ Progress. That trade has me in more of a major league frame of mind, though, so for the pitcher I think we’ll look at Alberto Cabrera.

Prospects’ Progress sometimes talks about top prospects, but the focus here is on individual players of all levels of prospectdom and their progression (or lack of it) over the course of the past season. The rankings and lists are coming sometime in early 2013.

Alberto Cabrera, RHP

Pre-Season Evaluation

The stuff is there. Cabrera has one of the best fastballs in the system, and when he is starting he can keep going back to the fastball even late in the game. He has the size and endurance scouts love in starting pitchers, he has a potential standout pitch in that fastball, he has a slider that looks unhitable at at times, and he compliments it all with a changeup that shows plenty of potential. What’s not to love?

Namely, his walk rate. His professional career walk rate is 7.48 BB/9. That is awful. If he can clean up that part of his game, he could yet emerge as a legitimate major league number three starter.

Post-Season Verdict

We did see some improvement, but not where it mattered the most. His BB/9 in the majors (21.2 innings) was 7.5. Cabrera looked better in the minors (2.52 with Tennessee and 1.86 with Iowa), but that major league number is still cause for significant concern. He worked out of the bullpen this season, making his high walk rate even more difficult to swallow.

Then again, he did post a SO/9 of 11.2 in the majors. We can’t ignore that.

The Cubs have seen enough potential that they talk openly about moving Cabrera back into the rotation; I like that idea. I suspect what the Cubs are seeing… and working to fix… is mechanical. High BB/9 can be a symptom of a guy who is not consistently repeating his pitching motion. That can lead to slightly different release points, and that in turn can lead to a pitcher having difficulty placing the ball where he wants it. It is a fixable problem, and there is plenty of upside here if the Cubs can fix it.

Future Prognosis

I expect Cabrera to be one of the last players cut from the spring training roster. He may wind up with more spring innings than any one else (if he stays healthy, of course). Ultimately he will almost certainly begin the year in Iowa as he starts the transition back to the rotation. If he can clean up any lingering mechanical issues in the first half of the season, he could be in Chicago’s starting rotation for the second half. The upside is that of a solid No 3 starter with strikeout stuff in the rotation, or a valuable 8th/9th inning guy in the bullpen.

If he can’t clean up his mechanics or if his BB/9 consistently stay high, he will remain in Iowa for much of the year. He will only be 23 next season, so he still has a little time to put it all together and take full advantage of his potential. Since he does have some impressive stuff and did show improvement in the minors last year, I don’t think the Cubs will have any issues trading him should they decide he isn’t going to pan out. Fairly young flame throwers who are nearly major league ready generally have some value on the trade market (often as part of a larger deal). If the Cubs don’t see enough progress out of Cabrera by the end of July, he may well be in a different uniform by the end of August.

Trey Martin

Pre-Season Evaluation

The Cubs took Martin in the 2011 draft, but not many fans noticed. Martin was a nice pickup, but he did not stand out in a draft class that was loaded with premium position talent. After signing, Martin was sent to the Arizona Rookie League for 18 games. He posted an OPS of .647 that told us basically nothing. There were whispers that the Cubs had something in Martin, but whispers are just that until there are numbers to back them up. Martin’s job in 2012 was to produce those numbers and show us exactly what caliber of prospect he is.

Post-Season Verdict

FanGraphs rated Martin as the 15th best prospect in the Cubs’ system so there must be something here, but it isn’t showing up on the stat sheet.

He spent most of the season with Boise (57 games, versus 7 with Arizona), but his numbers with the Hawks were not impressive in the slightest. His line of .270/.318/.377 is acceptable for a 19 year old in that league, but nothing remarkable. He stole six bases, but was caught five times. He showed a little power (3 HR, 4 3B), but does not project to be much of a slugger. He struck out at a 21.0% clip, and only walked 5.7% of the time. None of those numbers stand out.

On the other hand, his defense is solid enough that he would play center field on most teams (he played left field once Almora joined Boise), and his arm should work from any of the outfield slots. At 6’2″ and 188 lbs, it is easy to imagine quite a bit of additional power developing as he packs on more muscle. A lot of baseball people who watch him play seem to love this guy, and those opinions cannot be ignored.

But neither can the stat sheet.

Future Pronosis

Spoiler alert; I’m derailing this hype train. Trey Martin will not be ranked in my Top 15. Right now I see him as a fringe guy with a lot of projectability. There is no denying that he has the potential to develop into a quality prospect, but I need to see more out of him before I classify him that way.

With a solid spring training he should be assigned to Kane County to open the year. Baring an unexpected breakout, that’s probably where he finishes the year as well. I’d like to see his BB/9 come up somewhat. 5.7% isn’t bad, but I’d feel a lot better about his chances of moving up the system if he showed something three or four points higher than that. The power I think will come in time, and for that reason I’m not too concerned by the K% just yet. If he can keep it around 20% (and no higher), I think he’ll be just fine.

For now I have his ceiling in the same area as Jae-Hoon Ha. I like the defense (although he is not as good in that department as Ha), but the bat is still suspect. There is major league potential here, but there is a ton of risk as well. He is definitely one to keep an eye on throughout the 2013 season, but not someone we need to be excited by just yet.

written by

Luke Blaize is the Minor League Editor at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @ltblaize.

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