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Edward Cabrera’s 2022 was a mixed bag, but it left the Marlins with plenty of reasons to be optimistic about his future.
Cabrera was unavailable to the big league team early in the year due to a visa issue and biceps muscle fatigue. He dominated upon being called up in early June, but then right elbow tendinitis cost him nearly two months of action. He finished with 14 MLB starts, putting together 71 2⁄3 innings of work to the tune of a 3.01 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 6-4 W/L record.
While he was on the mound, Cabrera was extremely effective, thanks in part to a reinvented changeup. In his Jun. 1 outing against the Colorado Rockies, he threw one at 95.5 mph, the fastest changeup velocity in recorded major league history.
Edward Cabrera, Disgusting 94mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/SJjnOJbPLk— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 2, 2022
Cabrera’s pitch usage is unique among MLB starting pitchers. He added a sinker to the mix last season while dropping his 4-seam fastball usage rate from 38.6% in 2021 all the way down to a mark of 20.2% in 2022. In the spirit of trusting his best pitch, he turned to his changeup 11% more often and also used his curveball a bit more (3% increase). His 4-seam and changeup benefited dramatically from this adjustment, each dropping over 100 points off their expected batting average against. Cabrera and Yu Darvish were the only starters in baseball with four different pitches that registered a sub-.200 BAA (min. 25 PA).
However, Cabrera’s walk rate remained a problem in 2022. He issued multiple walks in all of his full-length starts (excluding injury-shortened appearances) and averaged 4.1 BB/9. Interestingly, he walked right-handed batters about twice as frequently as lefties despite having the platoon advantage.
Without further adjustments, Cabrera is a clear regression candidate. During his 2022 season, he overperformed his FIP (4.59) by over a run and a half and his xERA (4.05) by a full run.
2023 Season Preview
ZiPS Projection: 97.7 IP, 4.24 ERA, 4.36 FIP, 9.95 K/9, 4.05 BB/9, 0.7 WAR
While 2023 will be Cabrera’s third season in the majors, it’s the first time he’ll be on the active roster come Opening Day (health permitting). Sandy Alcantara, Jesús Luzardo and newly acquired Johnny Cueto are Marlins rotation locks. Cabrera is out of minor league options, giving him a leg up on Trevor Rogers, Braxton Garrett and Miami’s other back-end starter candidates.
Officially listed at 217 pounds, Cabrera was significantly heavier than that upon arriving at Spring Training this year, Fish Stripes’ own Isaac Azout reports. It has not interrupted his build-up for the 2023 season, though.
The foundation is there for Cabrera to be a dominant pitcher, but it’s all about putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Most importantly, Cabrera has to remain on the field to get better. He set a personal best in 2022 with 110 1⁄3 regular season innings pitched (majors and minors combined)—improving on that again this season should be the main objective for Mel Stottlemyre Jr. and company.
The next step in Cabrera’s maturation is establishing a pitch that can get him ahead in the count early. Look at the difference in outcomes when Cabrera starts a batter off with a strike as opposed to a ball:
In order to maximize the effectiveness of his nasty putaway pitches, Cabrera needs something that he can consistently hammer the zone with. His first pitch strike rate and percentage of pitches in the strike zone both lag below league average by between 4-8%. Cabrera’s fastball was his prized weapon as a prospect, and if he can command it better, it has the metrics of a phenomenal pitch. Batters would have no chance against his changeup and slider if they also had to worry about him using a 4-seam or sinker to steal strikes.
Edward Cabrera is one small jump away from being a truly great pitcher.