Scouting Yankee Prospect #3: Melky Cabrera

The Best Has Yet To Come From Melky

The Yankees signed Melky Cabrera out of the Dominican Republic on November 13th of 2001 for $175,000. Possessing one of the more mature approaches at the plate, Cabrera went from the NY-Penn League to the Major Leagues in less than two full seasons. Ranking #3 among the Top 50 Yankee Prospects, here's a scouting report on Melky Cabrera.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Melky Cabrera
Position: Outfield
DOB: August 11, 1984
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 168
Bats: Both
Throws: Left

Melky Cabrera has seemingly fallen out of favor with various publications in just one calendar year despite setting career highs in home runs (13), doubles (25), walks (37), runs (72), RBI (77), and tying his career high in stolen bases (13). For whatever reason, even though he made it all the way to the Major Leagues at the tender age of 20-years old, Cabrera's potential is seriously being overlooked by many.

"Well, I love Melky," Yankee Latin America Coordinator Carlos Rios told us prior to the start of the 2005 season. "He is a great kid. But, he hit when I first met him, he hit all through his first season down here, he hit in Staten Island, he hit in Battle Creek and I think he is just going to hit his way all the way up through the Majors."

"I am very, very proud of Melky," Rios continued. "He is just really a great young man. He is like 5' 10" but he hits big. I keep saying, this kid is going to hit 25 home runs one day. I said that since the day we signed him. I know he started to do it this year, and I said here we go."

A career .293 hitter at the minor league level despite being one of the youngest players in each of the leagues along the way, Cabrera's offensive potential is what has the Yankees very excited.

"It would have to be my hitting," Melky Cabrera listed as his biggest strength as a ball player. "My ability to hit for average is my biggest strength I'd say."

While he has proven he can hit for average, some nay-sayers are still waiting for Cabrera's home run power to develop. Often lost in various people's expectations is the fact he hasn't spent a full season at any minor league level and he just turned 21-years old towards the tail-end of the 2005 season.

"I worked really hard at home this past offseason, going to the gym more and stuff like that," Cabrera told us last season. "I was also working hard on my swing."

Cabrera's hard work paid off in 2005, hitting a combined 13 home runs between AA-Trenton and AAA-Columbus, setting a new career high. While that may not jump off the page for some, others realize he's just scratching the surface of his abilities.

"You watch, he is going to be a lot more of a power hitter than everyone thinks," Carlos Rios added. "He is really starting to blossom now. I think he is a star in the making. But, I'm telling you, watch out because he is going to hit for a lot more power. You haven't seen half of how good Melky can be yet."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2005

New York

.211

19

0

0

0

1

0

0

2

.211

.211

2005

Columbus

.248

101

3

3

17

15

2

9

15

.309

.366

2005

Trenton

.275

426

22

10

60

57

11

28

72

.322

.411

2004

Tampa

.288

333

20

8

51

48

3

23

59

.341

.438

2004

Battle Creek

.333

171

16

0

16

35

7

15

23

.383

.462

2003

Staten Island

.284

279

10

2

31

34

7

23

36

.345

.355

2002

DSL

.335

218

19

3

29

37

13

18

23

.388

.491



Batting and Power. One of the elite breaking ball hitters already, Cabrera's .293 average figures to only get better with more experience. He also is a tremendous "bad ball" hitter, not only swinging at pitches he shouldn't even attempt, but smacking them for hits, akin to Vladmir Guerrero of the Angels. Cabrera has excellent gap power right now, and as he matures physically, many scouts project he'll be a 25+ home run hitter at his peak. The switch-hitting Cabrera is a better hitter from the right side of the plate but generates more power batting left-handed.

Base Running and Speed. Cabrera has above average speed and he's a selective base runner, picking his spots to run very carefully. He has successfully stolen over 78% of his attempts in his career. While he has never stolen more than 13 bases in any given year, many believe he could steal more if he tried, an area he'll be looking to improve in the immediate future. A conservative base stealer, he projects to steal between 15-20 bases annually but could swipe a few more than that if he made it a priority.

Defense. Playing the majority of his games at the minor league level at the center field position, Cabrera projects to be more of a corner outfielder. He has excellent range in the outfield but he hasn't shown a consistent ability to put himself into prime defensive position prior to balls being hit nor getting good first reads once they come off the bat. Cabrera also has a solid arm for an outfielder. While he could play center or right field if need be, he projects to be more of a plus defensive player in left field where he is better suited.

Projection. It stands to reason that when Bobby Abreu - a player scouts have compared Cabrera to - hit just 13 home runs and stole 24 bases in his second full year at the AAA level in a notorious hitters' league, not many believed he would have developed into the type of player he is today. Several years later, those same doubts come up in discussions surrounding Melky Cabrera. Whether or not he develops into the same player remains to be seen. However, like Abreu, Cabrera projects to be a power hitting corner outfielder who can hit for average, steal bases, and bat in the middle of a lineup. He has that type of potential.

ETA. 2007. Forget his so-so six-game cup of coffee with the Yankees last season. The significance is that he made it to the Majors so quickly, not the un-inspiring performance in his first 19 Major League at-bats. He's ticketed for AAA-Columbus in 2006 and he seems like the logical choice to take over Gary Sheffield's spot on the roster in 2007 should the Yankees not exercise their option on him and fill that spot from within the organization. Among all the outfield prospects at the higher minor league levels, he's clearly the Yankees' best long-term solution.

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