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Genesis Cabrera Took a Leap Forward in 2020

St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Cabrera has been a promising relief prospect since the his days in the Rays organization, but in 2020 he took a step forward and began to deliver on his promise. To begin with, the southpaw saw his strikeout rate take a massive jump, and even though he struggled with walks and received plenty of batted ball luck, this jump bodes well for Cabrera’s future.

Cabrera made his MLB debut in 2019 when he tossed 20 13 innings in St. Louis while striking out 8.41 batters per nine innings. However, in the abbreviated 2020 season, Cabrera threw 22 13 innings while striking out 12.90 batters per nine innings. Additionally, his whiff rate jumped from 18.1% in 2019 to 40.3% in 2020. While this is a massive leap, and a 40.3% whiff rate is impressive, Cabrera also managed to improve his results on-contact. The 24-year-old finished the season in the 98th percentile with an average exit velocity of 84.0 miles per hour. This was also a significant improvement from 2019 when his average exit velocity was 87.7 miles per hour. Even though Cabrera surely benefited from a .171 BABIP, it is difficult to say that this was the only basis for his improvement.

Part of the reason why it was difficult for hitters to hit the ball hard was because of Cabrera’s above average movement. Cabrera’s fastball, which he threw over 50% of the time, has both above average vertical and horizontal movement. This combination of run and perceived rise can make it difficult to square up his fastball, especially when its coming at 96.1 mph. Additionally, his hard, 81.3 mph curveball has slightly above average vertical break. This is a power curveball that is not as loopy because of its velocity, but instead has sharp downward break, making it a difficult pitch for hitters to handle.

While this improvement in exit velocity and strikeout and whiff rate is impressive, Cabrera still has some control problems. The left hander walked 6.45 batters per nine innings in 2020 as he found it difficult to stay in the strike zone at times. However, this is common with young power arms. Cabrera will need to learn to control his full arsenal if he wants to be even more effective, but this may come with time. However, his 98th percentile whiff rate makes Cabrera a very promising reliever that could work his way into a role in the back end of the bullpen.

In order to do this, however, he will need to improve his control and show that his 2020 improvements are real, as he has thrown just 42 23 innings at the MLB level. However, 2020 was a breakout year for him, even if his FIP actually decreased from 2019 (4.54 to 4.76). This increase in FIP was largely a result of his increased walk rate and an extra home run that was hit off of him. However, with his increased strikeout rate, if he can improve his control, then he could see a big statistical jump in 2021.