Alberto Cabrera has been on the Cubs for 8 years, and he's been quite the enigma. Brought into the organization in 2005, he spent the first 6 years of his minor league career as a career ~18% strikeout guy, and a a ~11% walk rate. He also had FIPs in the 4s and 5s.
Then 2012 happened. His strikeout rate went to ~31%. His walk rate went to ~6%. Life was good for Alberto Cabrera, and he got called up after 55 innings in the minors, even despite his 4.19 AAA ERA (brought on by a .463 BABIP). He had 25 appearances, but he walked 18.2% of batters which led to a 3.83 FIP and a 5.40 ERA. After the season, Cubs brass decided to give Cabrera a shot at starting, and so he would start 2013 as a starter in Tennessee. I actually disliked the move as it was announced, as Cabrera has garbage secondary offerings (or was my understanding – Baseball Prospectus agreed…
Alberto Cabrera can reach 97 mph and may end up being another bullpen conversion if he can't iron out his secondary >offerings and throw strikes more consistently.
Mission…success? It's hard to say. He threw 112.2 innings in AA over 18 starts. While he was able to get an average of 6.6 innings per start (and a 3.20 ERA), he was converted BACK to a reliever when he was called up to Iowa late in the season. It's possible that the conversion was an innings issue (generally, you don't want to increase a pitcher's workload all that much in any year), but you could also point to the around 3 K per 9 less he had starting compared to 2012. He was also garbage in his 20.1 innings at Iowa, with a 5.66 FIP and 7.08 ERA. He had a 1.87 WHIP at that level, and that's a problem he's had every time he's been to Iowa.
Cabrera has easy, easy velocity. His fastball is a premium offering, plus now with plus-plus potential.
The juice can get loose, working in the mid-90s with heat up to around 98. The problems with the slidepiece and changeup are still out there, and it's an open question whether or not they've improved. (Seriously, it's an open question: I tweeted Jason Parks to ask him and he hasn't responded.)
Baseball America said at the midseason update that Alberto Cabrera was their biggest leap forward, but it made no mention of any of his pitches, it was just marvelling at 97 Ks in 98 innings with a 3.49 ERA, which, ok.
Seriously, it's frustrating that their isn't much tape or many inches on Cabrera's 2013 season. All I can say is that he recently had a great fastball and not great secondary stuff. Sorry.
Cabrera should be in the mix at the back of the Cubs rotation to open 2014, where he'll join a very crowded group of hopefuls. If it were me, I'd just scrap the idea of having a huge fastball with nothing else as a fringe starter, and see if he can be a 7th-8th inning guy. Those guys have value, and with Cabrera, there's an added bonus of him maybe reaching that ceiling. I don't think he's fooling anyone with his one (admittedly great) pitch. If he threw 160 innings of starter baseball in the majors, how many hitters are going to sit on that fastball? All of them.