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Cardinals 2020 Player Preview: Genesis Cabrera

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Fingernails be damned, Genesis Cabrera is my sleeper pick to join the St. Louis rotation.

MLB: Spring Training-St. Louis Cardinals at Houston Astros Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

How nasty is Genesis Cabrera’s stuff? In his last start, his fingernail exploded under the intense pressure of the nastiness.

That minor injury may sideline him for a week or two, and that may mean he does not start the season on the big league roster, but as the season goes on, I expect Genesis Cabrera to play a big role for the St. Louis Cardinals.

But before I get to that, let’s see what he did in his first taste of the big leagues last season:

2019 Statistics

13 Games, 2 GS, 20.1 IP, 22 HR, 11 BB, 19 SO, .323 BABIP, 4.87 ERA, 4.54 FIP, 0.1 WAR

Nothing worth lingering over in those small sample sizes. So let’s instead watch Cabrera finish off the Braves in the NLDS:

Oh yeah. That’s the good stuff right there.

If you take a stroll through Cabrera’s minor league numbers, you won’t find anything to blow your socks off in the traditional stats like ERA, K%, etc. The numbers are fine, but they aren’t amazing. And the ZiPS projections, which are based on the previous numbers, aren’t any great shakes either:

ZiPS Projection

31 Games, 21 GS, 118.0 IP, 19 HR, 59 BB, 114 SO, .316 BABIP, 5.03 ERA, 5.05 FIP

Given that, why am I so optimistic about Cabrera? There are three statistics that really stand out for me:

Genesis Cabrera is 23-years-old.

Genesis Cabrera is a left handed.

Genesis Cabrera throws 99mph.

When you put those three factors together, you get a pitcher with one of the very highest ceilings in the Cardinals system. If you are a lefty who can touch 99 and sit in the mid-to-upper 90s, you don’t need a whole lot more to be an effective big league pitcher.

But you do need a little more, be it at least one good off-speed pitch or excellent command, and Cabrera hasn’t consistently demonstrated either. His primary breaking ball has changed over the years, sometimes called a slider and sometimes called a curve. He throws a changeup, but scouts seem universally unimpressed by it.

But even with where Cabrera’s repertoire was in 2019, he showed he was good enough to be A GUY in the bullpen. If he could lock-in one breaking pitch, whether a sharp slider or more of a slow curve, to pair with his high octane fastball, he could be A STUD out of the bullpen.

And in his early appearances this spring, Cabrera was flashing a breaking pitch that was absolutely nasty.

The most likely destination for Cabrera is probably the bullpen, leaning heavily on a two-pitch mix. But I’m not ready to accept that’s all there is to Genesis Cabrera.

When a pitcher has the kind of stuff he has, you want to get all the innings you can out of him. Cabrera may be mostly a two-pitch pitcher at the moment, but he does throw a changeup and has experimented with enough breaking ball profiles, it’s not hard to see him finding his way to a 4-pitch mix. At that point, he becomes a very interesting candidate for a rotation spot.

I’m wishing on Genesis Cabrera a bit, but with a ceiling as high as his, there’s reason to be hopeful.