Camp sleeper? Edward Cabrera could be the biggest Marlins’ surprise

Camp sleeper? Edward Cabrera could be the biggest Marlins’ surprise


By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd

WEST PALM BEACH — What we saw on Monday is a reminder of why a few years ago there was so much hype surrounding Edward Cabrera.

Edward Cabrera, remember him?

Sometimes, it’s easy to be distracted at Miami Marlins’ camp because there is an abundance of young pitchers who command attention.

Last week, Max Meyer was making headlines. And the week before it was Eury Perez. We can also talk about Dax Fulton if you want, or any of the starters projected to be on the Opening Day rotation: Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Trevor Rogers, Jesus Luzardo and Elieser Hernandez.

If you’re not following closely, you may overlook someone.

Cabrera just might be that guy.

The 23-year-old arrived a day late to Spring Training due to a visa issue. After that, he has been a little behind the rest of the pack. The fact he’s already on the 40-man roster meant he couldn’t associate with the team during the 99-day MLB lockout.

In the weeks leading to the end of the lockout, Cabrera was in the Dominican Republic, while prospects like Meyer, Perez and Fulton were participating in the Marlins’ development camp at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

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Now, with Opening Day quickly approaching (April 8 at San Francisco), it’s time to get down to business.

Cabrera made his first Grapefruit League start on Monday at the Washington Nationals. Facing much of their expected Opening Day lineup, Cabrera stepped up, throwing three shutout innings with three strikeouts in Miami’s 8-1 win.

Small sample size, for sure. But huge talent projection as well.

In the first inning, Cabrera’s fastball was in the 97-99 mph range, and he got swings and misses on his slider, and his changeup is nasty. Scouts on hand were more than impressed.

Those are potentially three plus pitches for the right-hander, making his upside a legitimate No. 2 or 3 big league starter.

There are some command issues, and durability has been a problem throughout his career.

Overall, Cabrera’s talent is probably on par with any starter in the organization. Yes, that includes Alcantara, the ace of the staff.

Can Cabrera live up to the expectation?

Maybe. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cabrera ends up the best of the bunch. That’s a story for another day.

More importantly, as far as the 2021 season is concern, we are asking: Does Cabrera have enough time to win a rotation spot?

There’s always at least one big surprise in camp. Could this one be, Cabrera replaces Hernandez in the starting five. The Marlins do have bullpen concerns, and Hernandez could be a multi-inning possibility. We’re just saying.

From what I saw on Monday, it makes more sense to me now why Meyer was reassigned to Minor League camp a few days ago. Because if there is a bold move to be made. Maybe it is going with Cabrera, who already is on the 40-man roster and he’s already had MLB experience.

Meyer, remember, is not yet on the 40-man roster. Some scouts feel he will end up in the bullpen. The Marlins, and at least a couple of others I’ve talked to, maintain he’s a starter.

Rather than having Meyer make the Opening Day roster, the organization is committed to grooming him to start. They’ve held firmly on that stance, and have not been tempted to make him a setup reliever or closer right now.

That call makes so much more sense to me now because Cabrera may wind up being that young right-hander to be part of the big league roster from Day 1.

The way Cabrera threw on Monday should make this a tough call for Miami’s front office and coaching staff.

Granted, it’s just three innings. But Cabrera did log 26 1/3 innings in the big leagues last year, making seven appearances. He had his struggles throwing strikes, as he walked 19, while striking out 28.

In the Minor Leagues, Cabrera showed why he’s one of the better pitching prospects in the sport. In 61 2/3 innings, he had a 2.93 ERA, while fanning 92 with 25 walks.

If not for the pandemic, Cabrera likely would have already been a fixture in the rotation.

The way he threw on Monday brought back memories of Spring Training in 2020. Cabrera, then 21, impressed in an outing also at The Ballpark.

Then, he was tracking towards being called up to the big leagues. But the pandemic shut down the sport two weeks before Opening Day. Cabrera that year was one of the prospects at the Marlins’ alternate training site, but he hurt his right arm later in the season, and the injury lingered into the first half of 2021.

“I’ve been growing a lot the last two years,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “Mostly with my control. Control has been my priority. Not only controlling what I throw, but also controlling my emotions. Controlling the rhythm of the game. It’s something that I’ve been improving on, and I’m very proud that I’ve been able to work on that.”

Fully healthy, there’s nothing holding Cabrera back now. Which means, it’s a matter of time before he breaks through and joins the rotation. The question now becomes if that will be in the next two weeks, or at some point in the season.

About a week ago, I didn’t think there was enough time for Cabrera to catch up to the rest of the rotation. If he hasn’t already, he’s certainly closing the gap quickly.

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