Tuesday, December 25, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #8: Gustavo Cabrera

Gustavo Cabrera, OF.  DOB:  1/23/1996.  6'0", 190 lbs.  B-R, T-R.

2012:  DNP.

Gustavo Cabrera was BA's #5 ranked international prospect prior to the July 2 signing day.  The Giants managed to get him signed for $1.3 M.  I'm guessing the new international spending limits agreed to in the new Basic Agreement with a the MLBPA helped out a lot as without those limits, I'm sure Cabrera would have gone for at least double that amount and the Giants might have been reluctant to spring for that.

If I was ranking on ceiling alone, Cabrera would be a strong candidate for #1 on this list.  Even though BA had him ranked #5 overall, they had him ranked #1 in tools.  In the past, I ranked both Angel Villalona and Rafael Rodriguez much higher before they played any professional games.  Their records make me much less irrationally exuberant with Cabrera.  On the other hand, I have this feeling that the third time is going to be a charm.  Villalona and RafRod had pretty obvious flaws from the get-go with Villalona having a significant weight issue and a one dimensional toolset(power), while RafRod was tall and thin and has yet to fill out his frame.

Cabrera, on the other hand, has a very well proportioned, athletic looking frame with narrow hips and a tapering torso with hulking shoulders. If I was going to comp his body type, I'd say Mike Trout!  His speed has been described as "plus-plus."  He can put on a show in batting practice, but in the video I've seen, he has a bit of a windup with a lot of length.  Scouts reportedly have doubts about whether he will hit in games.

We don't have a track record of statistics to study, but Cabrera is not just a kid who wowed a scout at a tryout.  He played on the Dominican team for RBI(Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) and toured the states with them.  He reportedly got 2 hits in their championship game with a walk and steal to earn MVP honors.

I've got to disagree with Rainball on the name here.  Yeah, Gustavo Cabrera doesn't have much of a ring to it, but what if he becomes well known enough to just go by his first name?  Gustavo!  Not so bad, eh?  The other option is GCab which would be most apropo as long as he remains in the Giants organization.

If he follows the same path as prior 7 figure international Giants signings, he will surface in Arizona this summer during short season ball.  Look up his video on YouTube.


  1. Here's my question about a guy like Cabrera. With the scouting reports you've read, where do you think he would be taken in the amateur draft (if he were eligible for it)? I mean, are we talking Top 10 talent? First round? It would be interesting to see where he rated if he were playing high school ball in the US (although I know it's tough to project a kid at age 16). I'm hearing great reports about our other signee, N. Javier as well. Maybe even better hitting ratings?

    Merry Christmas! I love reading all of the information over here on your blog.


    1. Thanks, KG.

      With the caveat that the draft and the international market are two entirely different animals and you really can't compare a 16 yo to an 18 yo, Cabrera appears to have the toolset to be a top 10 draft pick. As with all young prospects, it all comes down to how the bat plays on the field. Another year or two of HS ball and showcases would be invaluable in judging that. It would be interesting to see where 16 yo international prospects would slot into the draft if they were included.

    2. I actually asked that very question in a recent PerfectGame chat. The PG guys love Gustavo, they think he would have had at least a $4MM signing bonus without the new CBA rules. Same breath as Byron Buxton or Meadows/Frazier of this class. That was good to hear. I'm very excited about Gustavo. And I agree with DrB that the first name will be just fine. GUSTAVO!

      I wonder when the Justin Upton comps for toolsy players will stop. I guess when another toolsy OF comes along and fulfills all the potential. I'd like to get ahold of a guy with Andrew McCutchen comps, that was the one franchise player I was really bummed got locked up. McCutch would have looked smoooth in the French Vanilla.

      Hope we're at third times a charm. It seems like AnVil was signed when the organization was especially hungry for any homegrown power. It just hasn't worked out. RafRod was much more of an immediate Giants bought a story that didn't pan out. Who knows, he has time, but Chuckie Jones looks like a better bet on the battle of the projections.

    3. Exciting info on PG's take on Gustavo. I recall that the talk early on about Gustavo noted that he was considered the top international prospect, maybe it was PG. I always liked comparing the bonus with the draft in comparing where they would fall in the draft, but with the constraints on international spending now, that don't work as well now. So it is helpful that PG was willing to give their expert opinion on what he might have gotten.

      Me gusta Gustavo's nombre!

      I think AnVil would have proved to be useful at the major league level had his legal problems not put his career into the side of the road. How useful, I don't know, but he had a LOT of power for so young a player in advanced A. RafRod I still haven't given up hope on, but do realize that most likely he's a longshot at best now, much like AnVil.

      Who knows with Gustavo? But the odds are very long, in my opinion. One thing I noticed long ago was that the list of Top 10 international bonuses paid was filled with failures, much like the draft in the back of the first round, there was only one good player on the list - Miggie - and a whole bunch of big flameouts. So I personally attach very little value to these players until they show up on someone's Top 100 prospects overall list. AnVil did, but RafRod never even sniffed it, not even close. I'm excited that PG loves him so much, and that gives me hope, but at the same time, the failure rate is discouraging for the big money international signings.

  2. Alright Doc, I'll admit that GUSTAVO is a pretty strong name, especially if he starts standing out as a talented and unique player to go with that unique name.

    This is the part of your list that I start getting much more excited about. The guys who are much less known are the guys we prospect hounds have all the more room to chatter about. In particularly a guy as young as Gustavo, who really can't do anything to hurt his stock in the first year before hitting full season.

    One thing I'm thinking about is how much the Giants brass will deign to fiddle with his swing mechanics right off the bat (no pun intended). Heavy-hitched swings are well out of style in the majors, and coaches will likely look to remove movement and length in a swing, while trying to retain the power.

    However, I think it's important to keep a kid's "natural" mechanics in tact. It'll be interesting to see how they walk the line between shaping him, while letting his natural talents play out.

    - Rainball

    1. Well, the Giants have a rather dubious past in terms of developing hitters. For a long time they concentrated on pitching so much, it probably was impossible to even tell if they knew anything about hitting. Buster and Pablo are kind of "naturals" so they didn't really need a lot of work. They made some pronounced changes with Brandon Belt right out of the draft. He's still a work in progress. They reportedly made some adjustments with Gary Brown mid-season last year and the jury is still out on that one too.

    2. It appears that taking HS pitchers tends to be a safer gamble than HS hitters. Is this true, or am I swayed looking at the Giants over baseball as a whole?

      In the last few years, we have seen Trout and Harper drafted out of HS, but I can not think of many others.

      However, pitchers out of HS have been somewhat more common (Cain, Bum, Crick, Wheeler, Blackburn, just to name a few from the Gs system).

      Is it possible that the hitting tool is one that is more developed while the pitching tool is one that is more natural ability, and thus, easier to see in younger kids?

      Or is this whole hypothosis balogne and I am influnced by the fact that Giants have a strength in scouting HS pitchers and not so much in scouting HS bats?

    3. Hs bats at the top of the draft just haven't happened much at all. In fact, the only times have been extra picks stock up years - 1998 with Tony Torcato and Artuto McDowell. 2007 with nick Noonan and Wendell Fairley. Maybe those years have two direct effects on Sabey Sabes: don't waste your time chasing extra draft picks and don't go after HS hitters, especially toolsy OFs.

      It's worth noting that 2007 draft is the gift that keeps giving: Bumgarner. Huge win right there. Then alderson for Freddy Sanchez. 2010 title. Culberson for scutaro. 2012 title. And Noonan might make it as a utility guy.

      The Gints have not invested at the top in HS bats very often. Arms a lot more, but still rare. They run a conservative style. For a lot of years it played to budget and style: Tidrow and Sabes are pitcher first guys. That is what Barr is here for now. Can't complain with Posey, Belt and Crawford and Brown/Panik in the pipeline.

    4. Without any stats to back it up, my impression is that young pitchers are more projectable than young hitters as long as they stay healthy. The risk for young pitchers is injury. The risk for young hitters is they won't hit.

    5. IMO...it's simply easier to scout a guy who already throws 95 MPH. As long as he has a clean delivery he will be a top pick. It's still by no means a certainty but the odds are better when taking a pitcher with some projection left but who already has a MLB pitch. He can work on secondary pitches but already has that pitch in his back pocket.

      By that same breath it's harder to project what a hitter is truly capably of when he faces so many below average pitchers game after game. Is the hit tool really there or was he just hot for a game or two? Is he simply a mistake hitter or can he recognize pitches and adjust? It's somewhat easier to scout a player with power or speed, but knowing if he will ever hit enough to tap into either skill is usually the million dollar question?

      This is just my opinion though.

    6. slc,

      I agree with you on this. The Giants have the added problem of having their AAA team in an extreme hitters league so it's very difficult to know who is a real hitter and who is feasting off the environment down there.

    7. It's certainly interesting to note the new trend occurring in the system, where the Giants are clearly much more comfortable in adjusting the hitting mechanics of recent high draft picks. I wonder whether Barr has brought the "fix it element" to the offensive development of our Giants prospects, or whether Barr brought with him some set of coaches that are working that angle for him/the Giants.

      Also, the mechanical adjustments that they're making are seeming to be very positive. In the article from Fake Teams you noted Doc, post-adjustment Brown hit like .316 over the last 4 months of the season or something. That is really excellent for a first year, plus-defense player like Brown. Pretty goods sign.

    8. This issue is two-fold regarding hitters, particularly high school. First of all, the Giants by merits of winning a lot of games, rarely got low draft picks where high school prospects are more clearly identified (i.e. have less warts, though, more so, still plenty enough warts that a large percentage of them never become a good player). BP's draft study found that high school prospects were less likely overall to deliver value in the first round than college prospects, and the Giants drafts have reflected that as well. Though I still find it funny that BP still likes to beat the Giants over the fact that they punted picks by pointing out that they could have selected someone like Matt Cain, forgetting that their own study says that the Giants should have gone for a college prospects, not a high school one.

      Second of all, what first picks that they got, they spent the vast majority of them on pitchers. That gives us very few valid examples to see how good the Giants are at developing hitters.

      I think the best evidence, though, is that we should have Sandoval, Posey, Belt in the middle of our lineup for a long time. How many teams have that? And if Brown and Panik can continue to develop, we could have a top of lineup of Brown, Panik, Sandoval, Posey, Belt by 2014-15.

      Regarding changing hitters mechanics, I think the new video training system that was made famous by Belt's transformation is probably most responsible for the Giants ability in changing hitters in recent years.

      The issue with identification, from what I've seen so far, is that TINSTAAPP holds strongly, you either are a pitcher or you aren't, there are not really any prospects per se, because as the Yoda motto goes (or my new Xmas Yoda doll gift from my daughter), "Do or do not, there is no try." MLE's thus really works for pitchers.

      There is no such saying for hitters. Their Krytonite could be a pitch that MLB pitchers have but not AAAA or below, and thus they are not truly tested until they reach the majors. Whereas pitchers can be tested as they rise.

    9. Sliders at the back foot seem to be kryptonite for a lot of Giants prospects when they get to the MLB level. Does that pitch not exist in the minors?

    10. Also, is that a pitch that knocks other teams' prospects out as well, or is it specific to the Giants?

    11. Its always fun to check back to old posts for a nugget. OGC - you have a great point about draft position and having very few valid examples. I think all of us Giant fans pinned way too much hope on guys from the back end of the top 100, such as Ortmeier, or Linden, or Freddy Lew, or Neikro. The list goes on. Nate the Great, Frandsen, and a little trickier, Ishikawa. The Giants record is not stellar (pre-2008), but when you look at other teams drafts, very few have the home run success. The phils with Utley and Howard. The Sox have a fairly good track record chasing down major league quality middle infielders. But its extremely hard to consistently get hitters.

      Interesting point DrB about projection for pitchers and injury risk versus risk of hitters not hitting (and hell, thinking about Roger Kieschnick and Nate, injury risk as well)

    12. DrB: I don't follow the minors close enough to know. Looking at Sergio Romo as an example, he seemed to have perfected it in 2007 and was in the majors for good in 2008, so he was not in the minors very long once he got the pitch down.

      Cal: looking at other teams prospects below Top 3-5 plus not on the Top 100 anywhere, yeah, they generally don't make it either. It's a recession when your neighbor gets laid off, a depression when you get laid off, as the joke goes.

      So I don't know, all I know is that MLB pitchers have pitches that minor leagues don't have and that is why there is a big leap in moving up.

    13. Shankbone, yeah, it really drives the point home once you look at the data and have it slap you in the face, right? For every Matt Holliday or AZ hitter who looks like he should screw himself into the ground but is actually useful HR hitters, there are dozens of hitters like Linden, FLew, Frandsen, on every team (for example, the D-backs highly rated and ranked Baby-Backs of 2003 were dead on the bone except for the prospect who wasn't even mentioned, Brandon Webb) who look promising but die on the MLB vine.

      Again, look at vast majority of teams that are competitive and if you look at their draft the following year, they pull up a lot of weeds like we did. Utley, I would note, was a first round draft pick, so he had some odds behind him, but Howard was a 5th rounder like Belt. For Boston, I would note that they were one of the teams to put more money into later picks to pick up prospects who fell because they were demanding too much, and thus were worthier of being picked earlier.

      Frankly, hard to find pitchers as well as hitters. Both are very hard to find. That is why the Giants are shaping out so nicely, they first focused on the pitching first, then focused on the hitters, hit the ball out of the park with a number of picks - something that most teams do not do - and now have an awesome nucleus of a team. Now they are starting up again with the pitching, I like the trio of Crick, Blackburn, Stratton (CBS? :^), and more importantly the trio of Sabean, Tidrow, Barr.

  3. Gustavo Cabrera - I can already see it...it's a famous baseball name. Every kid wants his jersey.

  4. I love that there is a place where on Christmas day, 2 Giants posts were put online and multiple people commented on them. I felt a little bad about sneaking away from the family to check for info on Gustavo Cabrera during the holiday, but it was really nice to know that there are other people out there just like me.

    Keep up the good work Dr.B and thanks for providing a place for us to go when we need our Giants fix.

    1. I, for one, would go to the corner to buy a Baggie of Giants talk from the kid in the white t-shirt if that is what was required.

      I suspect I am not the only one...

    2. I'm not trying to sabotage Christmas, but like I said in the other post, I have a very small family that gets together and there's only so much togetherness you can put in one day. There is time for both.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. Doc, Did you ever hear about the Giants signing a teenage Australian OF named Ben Leslie last year? I read a on twitter that the Giants signed him in January 2012, but see that he is now playing in the Australian Winter League. Do you know anything else?


    1. Nope. I'm in the dark on this one. I'll see what info I can scare up, but you twitter hounds might have access to more info than I can find.