The Padres have some young talent brewing in southern California. Keep in mind this team does not really have playoff dreams in 2010, there are still plenty of things to enjoy in the new year. Outside of the ever-fantastic Adrian Gonzalez, fans can keep their eyes set on the 23-year-old starting shortstop (and former “rule 5” draft pick) , Everth Cabrera.
Everth has unbelievably raw talent both defensively and offensively, but the young man has displayed incredible patience his entire minor league career. In over 1,000 minor league at-bats, Cabrera hit .284 with a .384 on-base percentage. The guy knows how to take a walk, which more or less seems like a rarity with these “uber prospects” who focus so much on their “tools” instead of the fundamentals. Although his inherent speed cannot be taught, he can’t use it effectively unless he’s on base.
The Padres had absolutely no answer to their shortstop position after trading Khalil Greene to the Cardinals. They attempted playing Luis Rodriguez full-time, and he “rewarded” San Diego with a .202 batting average and a horrifyingly low .578 OPS. With very little optimism, the switch-hitting 22-year-old Cabrera was thrown into the fire and held his own at the plate. Although he hit only .255, he again showed his astounding patience, by posting a .342 on-base percentage.
To call Cabrera diminutive may be unfair, but the man does not have the standard build of a player in the Majors. Standing at 5’9” and weighing 175 pounds, Everth is never going to own much power. He hit only two home runs in his 377 rookie at-bats, although one of those two homers happened to be a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, against Francisco Rodriguez.
His greatest strength shown in the Majors thus far has been his base-running. He stole 25 bases in 33 attempts in 2009. As a reminder, he did this in only 103 games. Not only is he going to be given many more chances to run in 2010, but he should even become a smarter and more efficient base-runner as he approaches his prime-years. He predominantly led-off when he was playing in 2009, so expect him to get almost all of his at-bats at the 1 or 2 spot in the batting order, this upcoming season.
Cabrera consistently shows just how raw his skills are on the defensive-side of the game too. Although the young man has more than enough range and a very strong arm, inaccuracy with his throws hurt his value greatly. He has the ability to be a top-of-the-line defender at shortstop, he just needs time to refine his skills.
Cabrera has a lot of maturing to do at the plate and in the field. This article is not to inform fans of an underrated star, but of a very solid player-in-the-making. Everth will never be the type to really “wow” baseball fans, but in 2010 (and beyond), Cabrera can be a very helpful piece to a rebuilding franchise in San Diego.