In doing some research for this, I was a little surprised to find that Melky Cabrera is not even 30. He’ll hit that milestone in August. It’s interesting because he’s been around for a while now and been through an awful lot, most of it self-induced.
For the purposes of this site, we’re asking if he’s worth a gamble for the 2014 season. To answer that question, we have to look at a few others.
We’ll start with an easy one.
- Question 1: Can Melky Cabrera be in the elite class of outfielders with Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, and possibly a few others?
Answer: No, and he’s not close. No need to waste any more time on this question.
- Question 2: Can Melky Cabrera provide the same value that he gave fantasy owners in 2011 and 2012?
Answer: I wouldn’t say that you should expect this, but looking at Melky’s Fangraphs Page, it looks a little more plausible.
Melky Cabrera, 2011-2013
|2011||13.3 %||20.3 %||.305|
|2012||12.6 %||21.8 %||.346|
The peripherals are consistent, which would suggest that such a wide gap is a fluke. Unfortunately, those numbers point more to Cabrera being lucky in 2011 and especially 2012 than they do to him being unlucky in 2013. If he continues putting the ball in play at a similar rate, and hitting line drives at the same clip, I could absolutely see Cabrera approaching .285 or so. Expecting anything more than that is really pushing your luck.
- Question 3: What kind of power can we expect from Melky?
Answer: I wouldn’t bank on much.
Melky Cabrera Career HR Splits
You can see pretty clearly that Melky has never been much of a home run hitter. He’s not exactly like Duane Kuiper, but the 10-15 range is really all that you can expect. Even in the 2012 season, Melky was only on pace for about 15 homers before his suspension.
Of course, he could end up hitting in front of Edwin Encarnacion, which would get Cabrera a pretty steady dose of hittable pitches. Even if that happens, I’d expect more of an uptick in batting average than power, as Melky focuses more on hitting line drives in the gaps than the long ball.
- Question 4: Realistically, what kind of fantasy value can Cabrera give us at his best?
Answer: The name I keep coming back to is Nick Markakis, only with a little more speed. Now, Markakis was powerful early stages of his career but over the last several seasons, they’ve become similar players.
The average will be good, but not likely great. The HR totals will not kill you, though you probably need a basher in your outfield to make up for the lack of bombs. Both Markakis and Cabrera should do just fine in runs or RBI (depending on where in the order they hit), and could possibly contribute good numbers in both categories in the right spot. Either way, they’ll be above average in one category, and not likely worse than below average in the other. Below average doesn’t sound great, but you can work around it. Remember, neither are exactly first rounders.
Which brings us back to the original question: Is Melky Cabrera worth gambling on in 2014?
Yes, he is. Although 2011 and 2012 weren’t that long ago, I wouldn’t list either of those as Melky’s ceilings, as the PED questions are just too strong around those two years.
But Nick Markakis — and guys like him — absolutely possess fantasy value. They’re guys you can get for cheap in an auction, or in late rounds of a snake draft, who will do well in some stats and not really kill you in any others. Melky Cabrera is easily in that group.
Again, I don’t think 2011 or 2012 will happen again for Melky, but what about this line?
That’s what Melky did in 2009 and I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if he did something like that again in 2014. We project him to come a little short of that in 2014, but also have him falling short of 400 at-bats, which is conservative.
As long as you don’t expect him to be a star, Melky Cabrera can absolutely be a contributor on a championship fantasy baseball team in 2014. As a result, he’s worth a gamble on draft day.