Cabrera Of 2011 Necessary To Stabilize Infield, Strengthen Offense
Each week through Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and break down the players in camp for the Indians at Goodyear, Arizona and examine their potential roles for the season to come. This week, we continue our Goodyear coverage by breaking down the players who the glue to the team if the Tribe is to make the playoffs.
By Mike Brandyberry
Was last season a breakout season for Asdrubal Cabrera, or a career year? The outstanding season Cabrera had in 2011, now has raised expectations for the upcoming season.
A year ago in Spring Training Orlando Cabrera suggested to Asdrubal that he try to utilize his power, trying to hit the ball out of the park at least once a game. He took Orlando’s suggestion and had an outstanding early part of the season, crushing home runs at a rate that had not been seen from the slick-fielding, slap hitter.
Cabrera hit six home runs in April—as many as he had hit in any season previously—and finished the year hitting 25 home runs. He had only hit 18 in the rest of his career. His increased power production was noticed and rewarded. He started the American League All-Star in July and was awarded the Silver Slugger for AL shortstops at year’s end.
Defensively, Cabrera has always been exceptional, but with increased offensive prowess came notice of his magical plays at shortstop. He was a finalist for the American League Gold Glove, but Sabr-metricians will tell you Macier Izturis of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was clearly the appropriate choice. Second place isn’t bad though.
Fast forwarding to 2012, if the Indians hope to contend for the American League Central Division and pursue a playoff spot, Cabrera must continue on his 2011 tear and be the glue to the Indians’ infield. No longer is Cabrera a slap hitting middle infielder, but a run producer who is one of the last links to the Tribe’s last playoff run in 2007.
Cabrera is slated to hit second in manager Manny Acta’s batting order, behind leadoff hitter Michael Brantley and in front of Shin-Soo Choo. If Cabrera returns with the 20-25 home run prowess he demonstrated a year ago, he provides the Indians with a strong top end to the batting order. Not too many teams have that kind of offensive threat before reaching the third spot of the order. A healthy Choo could provide for better pitches and opportunity for Cabrera.
Meanwhile, Cabrera’s defense is probably as important as his increased offensive production. Cabrera finds himself as one of the anchors of the Indians infield defense. With a starting pitching staff designed to induce ground balls, Cabrera’s ability to work with and help second baseman Jason Kipnis is important. Kipnis, who is a converted outfielder, is only in his third season as a second baseman. A consistent Cabrera can only improve the defensive development of Kipnis.
Prior to the Indians reporting to Spring Training, the team and Cabrera discussed a long term contract. Cabrera has been clear in stating that he wants to remain an Indian for many years to come. However, talks have stalled, most likely a disagreement between Cabrera’s value—either the 2011 season, or the season’s prior. Cabrera’s glue to the team and production this year probably impacts his contract value, but definitely impacts his team’s playoff chances.
Photo: Jordan Bastian/MLB.com
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