When talking about the fastest players in the major leagues today, there are usually a few familiar names that come to mind. Obviously, there’s Mike Trout and his 49 steals last year. From there, you can move on to any number of speed demons: Michael Bourn, Jose Reyes, Coco Crisp, etc.
There is, however, one name that was overlooked in this category last season, and his name is Everth Cabrera of the San Diego Padres.
Obviously, playing for the Padres is going to be a bit of a curtain on a player’s achievements, even if that player happens to be one of the fastest players in the game. Cabrera came up with the Padres back in 2009 for a relatively successful first taste of the majors, hitting .255/.342 with 25 steals in 438 PA, but never replicated his success. He wound up toiling in the minors between 2010 and 2011 because he just couldn’t hit well enough to be a major league shortstop, even if it was obvious that his speed on the bases could be an asset.
Last season, Cabrera didn’t just show that his speed could be an asset – he showed that it could be elite. There were only two players who stole more bases last season than Cabrera’s 44 in 2012 – Trout and Rajai Davis – but Cabrera’s 91.7 percent success rate easily trumps that of Davis’, and edges out Trout’s.
Not only did players like Bourn nor Reyes steal as many bases as the Padres shortstop – neither did it remotely as successful. More impressively, Cabrera recording his 44 steals in just 115 games, fewer than anyone else in the stolen base top 10 last season.
And sure, the lack of a consistent bat meant that all those steals only resulted in 49 runs for the 26-year-old, but it’s not as though his speed comes with a Dee Gordon-like .561 OPS either. Cabrera’s .648 OPS last year might not be pretty, but it’s close enough to the middle of the pack (17th of 25 shortstops with minimum 400 PA) that it’s not notably poor among his peers.
44 steals in 115 games is the type of game-changing speed that baseball folks like to talk about, and Cabrera has shown that he has as much, if not more of it than just about everyone else in the league. He’s not going to garner too much attention being buried in the 8th spot in the Padres lineup, but if the team takes a look at his situation stats and sees fit to continue sticking him at lead-off (where he hit .282/.352 with 23 SB in 28 games), ahead of guys like Chase Headley and Carlos Quentin?
Well, the numbers should speak for themselves. Cabrera might not be a buzzy name in the bigs right now, but in the right place in the order in 2013, the Padres could be looking at the next league leader in stolen bases – and a star in the making.