CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – There has never been any disagreement regarding the abilities of top prospect Yordy Cabrera. Since arriving in the United States from the Dominican Republic as a 14-year-old six years ago, his talents have been on display for all to see.
A shortstop, third baseman and right-handed pitcher, Cabrera often left opposing players and coaches shaking their heads throughout a terrific prep career at Lakeland (Fla.) High School. He continued to impress observers while performing in front of hundreds of professional scouts and college coaches at numerous Perfect Game events between 2007 and 2009.
He signed a letter-of-intent to play college baseball at the University of Miami, but wound up signing a professional contract with the Oakland A’s after being selected early in the second round (60th pick overall) in the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft.
“I really wasn’t expecting to be drafted (so high) and I was looking to go to college and get an education,” Cabrera said. “But then I got drafted and I decided to go and play professionally rather than go to college.”
Cabrera spoke to Perfect Game on Wednesday, May 4, a couple of hours before the start of a Single-A Midwest League game between Cabrera’s visiting Burlington Bees and the host Cedar Rapids Kernels. It was his first visit to Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Cabrera is beginning his first full season in the minor leagues – he debuted briefly last summer in the Arizona League – and before the 2011 season was named one of the 10 top prospects starting the season in the Midwest League.
That list also includes right-hander Zach Lee from the Great Lakes Loons, shortstop Billy Hamilton (Dayton Dragons), third baseman Nick Castellanos (West Michigan Whitecaps) and outfielders Donavan Tate (Fort Wayne TinCaps) and LeVon Washington (Lake County Captains), all PG alumni.
A month into the season, Cabrera is side-stepping the hurdles the life of a minor-leaguer presents. He was hitting .283 (17-for-60) with one home run, six RBIs, 12 runs scored and six stolen bases after playing in 16 of the Bees’ first 25 games. He did it while fighting through an unseasonably cold April at outposts in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.
He went 3-for-7 with an RBI, a run scored and a stolen base in the Bees’ 4-3, 17-inning loss to Cedar Rapids on May 4, which hiked his average from .264 to .283.
“It’s going pretty much all right so far,” Cabrera said. “It’s a different lifestyle and I’m just getting used to it. I’ve been around the game with my dad (since a young age) and I got a lot of experience with him. It’s just different being far from home and just to go somewhere where you have no family and you don’t know nobody – stuff like that.
“And then it was cold every day.”
A smile arced across Cabrera’s face when he spoke of his father, Basilio Cabrera, a former minor leaguer who reached the Double-A ranks and now is the manager of the Lakeland-based Gulf Coast Tigers in the rookie Gulf Coast League.
“We talk every day,” Cabrera said. “My dad prepared me well enough to handle any obstacles that come around me.”
Cabrera spent a lot of time around his father’s Rookie League teams while in high school, and his dad was among the first to recognize that Yordy was a special talent.
“He’s a five-tool player,” Basilio told Perfect Game while attending the 2009 PG National Showcase when Yordy was 18. “He can do everything in baseball – power, speed, hit for average, great arm. He loves it. It's always a joy to have somebody like that around.”
Cabrera is a veteran of nine Perfect Game events, including the ‘09 National Showcase at the Metrodome in Minneapolis and the ‘09 PG WWBA World Championship at the Roger Dean Complex in Jupiter, Fla. He also played in the ‘09 Aflac All-American Classic at PETCO Park in San Diego.
Thirteen eventual 2010 first-round and six other first-round compensation draft picks joined Cabrera at the ’09 PG National.
Infielders Kaleb Cowart (Angels, 18th pick overall) and Justin O’Conner (Rays, 31st); outfielder Chevez Clarke (Angels, 30th) and right-hander Karsten Whitson (Padres, 9th) were among the first-round picks in Minneapolis. All four of those players were later Cabrera’s teammates on the East squad at the Aflac All-Star Classic.
“Going to all those tournaments and showcases in front of scouts, I could pretty much show people what I could do,” Cabrera said of the benefits he received attending PG events.
At the ’09 PG National, Cabrera ran a 6.59-second 60-yard dash, recorded an infield throw that was clocked at 87 mph and also unleashed a 94 mph fastball. Perfect Game ranked him the No. 9 top prospect nationally in the class of 2010.
“Extra strong, athletic build, big-league ready body,” a PG scouting report read. “Easy bat speed, ball jumps hard, short and quick to the ball, good balance to contact, serious power potential, aggressive swing, will expand the zone … could be early draft pick as a pitcher or as an infielder.”
At some point during his development, the A’s scouting staff caught sight of Cabrera and was impressed enough to select him early in the draft’s second round. He received a reported $1.25 million signing bonus.
After breaking spring camp, Burlington Bees Manager is Aaron Nieckula talked about Cabrera with Bill Seals from athletics.scout.com.
“He’s a (20)-year-old young man in this league, so he’s got a development in front of him,” Nieckula told Seals. “We want to bring him along at a pace that’s comfortable for everyone involved. I think the plan is to let him go out there and play as much as he can.”
Nieckula first had a chance to work with Cabrera in spring training and came away impressed.
“The first day I was out there hitting fungoes, I was hitting ground balls to Yordy at shortstop and I honestly thought that he was an older player,” Nieckula said in the Q&A with Seals. “I thought he was a Double-A or Triple-A guy because his actions on the field were pretty smooth. … He’s a hard-working young man.”
It is likely Cabrera’s development will continue for the next several years at the minor league level as he continues to work toward a Major League opportunity. The small market A’s take pride in stocking their big-league roster with the fruits of their far system, so it’s possible Cabrera couldn’t be in any better situation.
He only wants to continue to improve.
“Every day I learn something different,” he said. “The game never gets too old and every day there is something new to learn.”