Updated: May 1, 2019
THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days, starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of a quirky and goofy guy, and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. The article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible. I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's fun so treat all of the prospect ranking accordingly.
Genesis Cabrera - Left-Handed Pitcher
Acquired as part of the Trade that sent Tommy Pham to TB
AA Springfield/Montgomery and AAA Memphis
STATS AS OF 5-1-2019
This article makes me sigh. It's another article that will suffer because of my list .gif database and the maintenance going on over at MiLB TV. I only have one .gif of Cabrera pitching for the Cardinals' organization, and I'm bummed about it. I'm bummed that I won't get to show you some of the things that I've found in his mechanics. I also won't be able to show you the progress that his stuff made during his short time as a member of the organization. HOPEFULLY, I'll be able to provide you with an update rather soon.
This is the story of a pitching prospect that is better than anyone but myself and Joe Schwarz (@stlCupOfJoe for the Athletic) realized when the Cardinals traded for him. It's the story of a potentially dynamic four-pitch-lefty with nasty stuff and high-velocity.
Before we get too far into this, I wanna bring this piece up. It was written by Mr. Schwarz for The Athletic, and it'll do a better job than I ever could of illustrating just how good Cabrera is capable of being. Read it, dammit. That, and @Cardinalsgif's does some of his own magic within the article, as you'd expect. Quick shout-out to one half of the official babies of Prospects after Dark, Jaden Schwarz.
Now, Genesis has developed a bit of a following this winter because of the impressive numbers that he has put up while pitching out of the bullpen in the Dominican Summer League.
There, he threw 20.1 innings while striking out 21 and walking two. He posted an ERA of 1.26 and a WHIP of 0.63 while holding hitters to a batting average against of .152. That was dominant. It's probably as good as you'll see. It was so good that it has people clamoring for him to start the season out of the Cardinals bullpen. While I am not exactly opposed to this, I'd very much like to see him continue to refine as a starter because, and I can't stress this loudly enough, his stuff is good enough to be the front-end starter variety.
His stuff is good enough, and his command has come a long way, but it still needs to get a lot better. Other than the need for a LHP out of the bullpen, there is nothing that should stop him from being a very good starter at the major league level. I'd also caution, once again, to not get too wrapped up in winter league stats. Even the Dominican Winter league is somewhere between AAA and AA talent-wise, with a lean towards AAA. It's a good league, but it's not exactly on par with the level of skill that Mr. Cabrera possesses. That shouldn't take away from just how impressive he's been, though.
One of the first things that you'll notice (at least, one of the first things that I noticed) about Cabrera is that he's skinny. There isn't much in the way of a waist there. My guess is, he'd be able to fit into a boys-sized husky better than 28-inch-waist pair of jeans. He's just so damn skinny in the waist. With that being said, he's still pretty well built. He has a powerful lower-half, and his upper-half is strong and lean.
The second thing that you'll notice about Cabrera when he pitches is that he works quickly. I love it so much. Of course, sometimes that knocks his mechanics out of whack. For the most part, it's a quick pace that really works well for him.
That brings me to one of my favorite thing about Cabrera: He has the type of stuff that freezes minor league umpires.
What I mean is, often times his stuff is so good that you'll see a strike called a ball simply because the umpire had given up on it. This happened A LOT after the trade from the Rays organization, and even more-so during his time at Memphis.
During the Memphis playoffs, you could even tell that the umpires were frustrated by this. The good news is, Cabrera never seemed to be rattled by the ineptitude of the umpire. Yet another good sign.
Cabrera is capable of fooling an umpire because of how good his stuff is. Out of the bullpen, he can dial his fastball up to the high 90's as well, even though it lives in the 92-96 MPH range during a start. Oh, by the way, that's a four pitch arsenal that works extremely well together coming from a near-identical arm-slot with above average movement on all of them. This next .gif is a pitch-mix, and I recommend that you stick around for all of it:
Take note of that first breaking pitch. Cabrera throws it on the black here. He does that a lot with this pitch. Often times, the umpire ends up being the reason why Cabrera is successful or not during a start in the minors, and that's a shame. He locates it so well on the black against lefties, and if an umpire isn't calling it a strike then Cabrera isn't going to be as effective. Sure, it's up to Genesis to get it over the plate, but that's a slippery slope. Keep an eye out for this. For a pitcher like Cabrera, it's even more of a slippery slope because he pitches his best when he's pitching with emotion. He is at his best when he's pitching with emotion, and he's at his worst when he's pitching with emotion. Emotions suck. When he's having fun and pitching aggressively and with a celebratory attitude, he's a ton of fun to watch. You'll notice this in the .gif below, after he closes out a game with a strikeout of San Diego Padres' outfielder Franchy Cordero:
Here's something that you hopefully won't see: when Cabrera "doesn't have it", he just "doesn't have it." When this happens, you can see the frustration on his face and in his body language, in-game.
This isn't uncommon for such a young pitcher, but containing those emotions and pitching through the struggle is something that he is going to have to learn to do. That being said, he was lights-out during the Memphis playoffs when the "going got tough" and appeared to be unflappable. Even more encouraging, he pitched his his best when he was most challenged.
The other thing that I've noticed (and this is where this article is really going to suffer from the lack of .gif's), is that Cabrera has a tendency to lean to far to his left and throw across his body while releasing the ball. This happens when he's having trouble commanding his pitches, and it happens with all of his pitches. It's a bit of a "plant and whip" motion, and it does him no favors. He's at his best when he's on top of the ball. After entering the system, Cabrera really seemed to straighten out. This part of his mechanics was crisp during the Winter League, too. (SPRING UPDATE: It hasn't been crisp so far this spring, and it happened a lot during his time in the Rays' organization)
This goes double for his breaking stuff. I'm not sure if this is a sign of fatigue or something else, but it's something that he is going to have to do a better job of keeping clean and repeating. He also gets a little "swipey" with his right foot instead of erect and direct. I'm not sure if this has more or less of an influence on his struggles as his arm angle and body balance does, but it is another area in need of cleaning.
Even with these mechanical cues that are in need of extra attention, Cabrera's is so damn gifted. I mean, for real, his stuff is just really really good. You are talking about a mid-rotation starter, easily, if he continues to show what he showed after being traded to the Cardinals. If he goes back to being the pitcher that he was with the Rays then he's a dominant bullpen arm. Either way, he's "leGit" and valuable. You might look at his stats and feel unimpressed, especially by the walk rate. What I can tell you is that he is better than that.
The Rays tried very hard to push a changeup on him and it never seemed to click, consistently. The use of that pitch was part of the reason for the high walk rate and lower strikeout rate, at times. It's a good pitch, but it's not the pitch that he should be throwing a bunch. Once that pitch took a backseat he really excelled.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Cabrera might be the most gifted pitching prospect in the Cardinals' organization. With a little refining and the continued command that he exhibited late in the 2018 season, he could end up being a front-of-the-rotation arm. He's already exhibited the ability to pitch dominantly out of the bullpen at Memphis and on the International Circuit, but he is capable of more than that. The question for this member of the 40-man is "will the ineffectiveness of the other lefties on the 40-man roster give him a chance to make a major league impact out of the bullpen in 2019 before he's given a shot to start?"
*SPRING TRAINING UPDATE*
After all of this hype for Cabrera, he struggled, and really fizzled out, during Spring Training. You know what? That sucks. You know what else? It doesn't change how talented this kid is, or how bright his future is. He'll be in Memphis to start the year. Hopefully as a starter, too. He'll be in the majors by the end of the season. Nothing has changed for this young man. He just really struggled during spring.
MAY 1st UPDATE
As the stats above will show you, it's been a tough start to the season for Cabrera. When you watch him, he looks off-balance in his motion, and that's causing him to throw a lot of balls. I'm not remotely giving up on him, especially because the Cardinals dicked around with his role for the first month of the season. I'm going to let it simmer down a bit, then re-evaluate at the end of June.
Thank you to FanGraphs for the stats.
Thanks For Reading!!