As we’ve discussed several times recently, the Yankees need a left fielder.
But in-house, the Yankees have an intriguing left field option in super-utility player Oswaldo Cabrera. An infielder by trade, he played everywhere for the Yankees last year except center field, catcher, and pitcher. He probably could have too, had manager Aaron Boone asked him.
What’s more impressive is Cabrera accomplished this in a small sample size. He didn’t make his MLB debut until August and played in just 44 games. Yet, for someone who played outfield in just four of 580 career minor league games, Cabrera handled himself well.
Let’s start with left field, where the Yankees would theoretically need him most. The numbers there are modest, with defensive runs saved (DRS) and outs above average (OAA) each at zero. Yet, Cabrera still managed one outfield assist from left field.
But let’s pivot to Cabrera’s numbers in right field. This sample size is bigger at 208 innings. Yet, the metrics almost make you forget Aaron Judge is the elite glove at the same position. Over this stretch, Cabrera posted an eye-popping +9 DRS in right and showed off his strong arm with six assists.
Who’s to say he can’t replicate this same success, but in left field?
It’s also important to note Cabrera has quite the bat potential for someone just six feet tall and an unlikely 200 pounds. He hit .247 with six home runs, a .740 OPS, and a 111 wRC+ in the majors, about on par with hitting .269 with nine home runs and an .851 OPS in the minors.
Except, here’s the rub. Solid as those numbers were last year, Cabrera also missed time with an injury. In 2021, he hit .272 with 29 homers and 82 RBI across Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Those show strong bat-to-ball skills even though MiLB used juiced balls that season.
Sure enough, Cabrera posted a solid line drive rate (LD%) of 21.8% in the majors along with a fly ball rate (FB%) of 50%. Even better is he did so using the whole field, never relying on being strictly a pull or contact hitter. The strikeout rate (K%) was high at 25.7%, but Cabrera didn’t really chase bad pitches. The issue was more he’s 23 with a long swing that needs tightening, a la former Yankee Didi Gregorius.
So all that being said, why shouldn’t Cabrera try being the everyday left fielder? Sure, he’s an infielder, but the Yankees don’t need him there. In a way, he checks all the boxes New York hoped Aaron Hicks would, just without the $70 million investment.
Adding a Kepler or Happ type would be good, but the Yankees are running out of minor league pieces to make such trades. It makes more sense to trade someone like Hicks and/or former top prospect Estevan Florial for minor league depth or extra arms.
And in the meantime, maybe Cabrera can prepare to play left field until a better option presents itself, or at least until Jasson Dominguez is ready.