Marlins RHP Edward Cabrera made his long awaited return to a mound on Sunday in a rehab start with the Marlins Low-A affiliate, the Jupiter Hammerheads.
Cabrera, the Marlins fourth overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, had been sidelined since Spring Training with a nerve issue in his biceps. It had been a long road back for Cabrera, but recently his progression had sped up, leading to a rehab start today.
Cabrera was sharp and was built up to throw three innings, which is an encouraging sign for where he’s at in his progression. He threw 37 pitches and topped out at 98.7 MPH with his fastball. He threw all four of his pitches and used his sinker as his primary pitch, throwing it 19 times. He threw his curveball 10 times, his four-seam fastball seven times, and used his slider just once. He had a 32% called strike and whiff percentage (CSW%)—for context, that is the same as Trevor Rogers’ season average.
9⃣8⃣.7⃣ MPH from Edward Cabrera?— Jupiter Hammerheads (@GoHammerheads) June 6, 2021
That'll play. pic.twitter.com/PWWCcucRvz
Cabrera’s final line was a very clean 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K. He got a swinging strikeout with his sinker, and two on called strikes with his curveball and his slider, which shows he was effective in mixing his pitches and his command was sharp.
Edward Cabrera's day is done.— Jupiter Hammerheads (@GoHammerheads) June 6, 2021
He finishes with three scoreless innings to go along with three strikeouts and no walks.
FB: 9⃣6⃣-9⃣7⃣ MPH
CH: 9⃣0⃣-9⃣3⃣ MPH
CB: 7⃣9⃣-8⃣3⃣ MPH
(Can we please keep him, @Marlins?) pic.twitter.com/Dk9cPWbRHa
Obviously Cabrera was facing inferior and inexperienced competition, but it’s still encouraging to see him go out and dominate the way you expect him to in his first competitive game in almost two years.
Cabrera was stellar in 2019, posting a 2.23 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and 116 strikeouts in 96.2 innings in 19 starts across High-A and Double-A. 2019 was so good for Cabrera it launched him into the Top 100 Prospects list on MLB Pipeline, where he currently sits at number 54. It even had people thinking he could make an appearance with the Marlins in 2020, before a minor injury ended that possibility.
Ok, this just isn't fair...— Jupiter Hammerheads (@GoHammerheads) June 6, 2021
Edward Cabrera is throwing it back to his '19 days with the Hammerheads! pic.twitter.com/45cLFW8HlX
His status as one of the Marlins top prospects and current trajectory towards returning to full strength has Marlins fans hoping they could see Cabrera in Miami again this year. However, some patience is required.
Marlins Manager Don Mattingly deferred to the development team about what the Marlins plans are for Cabrera going forward. Even with the current injuries to their starting rotation, they won’t be rushing the 23-year-old.
“This guy hasn’t pitched in any kind of season in two years,” said Mattingly.
That certainly doesn’t change the Marlins’ confidence in him.
“This kid is gonna be good,” said Mattingly, “we saw his stuff last spring and it’s electric stuff.”
Marlins pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. spoke on Saturday about the injury issues that have the Marlins back down to just three healthy starters. He discussed how the Marlins cannot harm the development of some of their young arms just because they’re dealing with so many injuries at the big league level.
“We’ve been very sensitive with the timing of when those guys are ready,” said Stottlemyre Jr. “We certainly don’t wanna bring a younger guy up when they’re not ready to go through what they’re gonna go through up here.”
“[The Marlins don’t want to] bring the wrong guy up to where he can’t handle some things and we do some long term damage,” said Stottlemyre Jr.
The Marlins have shown they are not going to mess around with injuries to their young arms and they are going to be as careful as possible with Cabrera. That being said, they’re not going to hold back their young arms from being promoted when they’re ready to make an impact, so an appearance with the big club this year shouldn’t be ruled out.
However, I think it’s important to temper expectations for Cabrera this year. He is expected to make at least a one more rehab start with Jupiter, perhaps even a third one after that. Assuming no setbacks, he’ll come off the Triple-A injured list in mid-to-late June, but from there it may take a couple additional months in Jacksonville to prove that he’s a finished product.
Cabrera is still only 23 but there’s no doubting his potential as a frontline starter for the Marlins. If the team continues to need arms, and Cabrera begins to dominate in Triple-A, the calls for him to make his Major League debut will certainly get louder. For now, it’ll be exciting for fans to monitor Cabrera’s journey back to full strength.