Everth Cabrera earned a spot in 2012 playing very well in triple-A Tucson, batting .333/.389/.410 with 9 2B, 1 3B with 15 RBI and going a perfect 15-for-15 in stolen bases. He also received rave reviews (both offensively and defensively) from management in the minors and was promoted when the Padres decided to put Jason Bartlett on the disabled list with a right-knee strain.
Bartlett, who was brought over by former general manager Jed Hoyer, was acquired by the Padres in December of 2010 in exchange for Adam Russell, Cesar Ramos, Cole Figueroa and Brandon Gomes. Bartlett was more than underwhelming, batting .133/.240/.193 in 98 plate appearances, and overall batting a meager .231/.299/.292 in 168 games as a Padre, while also being very disappointing defensively.
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Cabrera broke on the scene in 2009 as a Rule Five Draft player, which means the Padres had to keep him on the roster for the entire season or send him back to the Rockies, where the Padres had snagged him. Cabrera did not disappoint, batting .255/.342/.361, 18 2B, 8 3B, 2 HR, including a walk-off grand slam, while showing flashes of dazzling defense and exceptional base-running promise by swiping 25 bases. In between 2010 and 2011, he was hindered by mediocre play and a plethora of injuries. After being brought up in 2012, he started to show glimpses of the 2009 season which had the Padres excited about the young shortstop. Cabrera, who essentially went from high-A baseball to the major leagues in 2009, once again started opening eyes as a potential mainstay shortstop. He went on to bat .246/.324/.324, 19 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR while leading the National League in stolen bases with 44 and only being caught four times.
While Cabrera came back and put up comparable offensive numbers in 2012 (in addition to his impressive showing in 2009) and showed flashes of fantastic defensive skills, while earning the NL stolen-base crown, he is still not a lock at shortstop next year. If you compare Cabrera’s advanced defensive metrics (albeit a pretty small sample) from 2009 to 2012, he has vastly improved. While I am not a fan of advanced defensive metrics specifically, I believe it’s the most flawed measurement, but for argument sake lets compare. In 2009, his UZR/150 was -13.4 with 23 errors in 896.2 innings, compared to a -7.6 UZR/150 with 16 errors in 915.1 innings at short.
The Padres were so impressed with the way second/third baseman Logan Forsythe played in 2012, some believe he could make the transition to shortstop. Forsythe also has had his share of injuries, like Cabrera, and has been blocked at third base by Chase Headley, his natural position. However, Forsythe is versatile and, like Cabrera, impressed management with his hard-nosed style of play.
Like Cabrera, Forsythe was given a shot due to another middle infielder’s injuries and eventual release of Orlando Hudson. It was another failed signing/acquisition by the former general manager. In Hudson’s two seasons with San Diego, he batted just .238, while falling out of favor with fans with his defensive miscues and questionable efforts. He was also hindered by injuries, like Bartlett.
Forsythe was incredible last year, especially when you consider he was essentially a rookie, (as he exceeded 130 AB in 2011 to qualify as a rookie this year) and flourished hitting in cavernous PETCO Park. He batted .273/.343/.390, 12 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 26 RBI and 8 SB with 315 AB. He batted a very impressive .313/.381/494 at home and hit five of his six homers at PETCO. However, he didn’t excel batting with runners on base (.238) or with runners in scoring position (.197). He was playing second base, (which once again is not his natural position) but looked solid overall showing above average range at times, despite multiple knee surgeries, a great arm and flashes of sparkling heads up instinctual plays, as well as psychically gifted plays. His hustle mentality and hard nosed baseball play epitomizes what the Padres are preaching in a true ball player makeup.
So, what’s the problem in having Cabrera as shortstop and Forsythe at second base going into 2013? Well, top prospect Jedd Gyorko will have a legitimate shot at becoming the regular second baseman during spring training (barring a major trade).
While Forsythe only played 21.2 innings at shortstop, there are people in the Padres organization who would like to see him beat out Cabrera at short due to his offensive promise, although I am skeptical.
I wonder if there is an interesting solution to this problem. How about a match-up platoon situation between Cabrera and Forsythe at shortstop? While Forsythe was impressive overall, he only hit .222/.284/.319 against right-handed pitching. In contrast, switch-hitter Cabrera hit .267/.347/.351 off right-handed pitching and struggled mightily off left-handed pitching, batting .195/.266/.257. Forsythe flourished, slugging an impressive .384/.465/.545 against south paws. I am not usually a fan of platoon scenarios, but this could be an ideal way to keep Cabrera’s speed and promising defense in the lineup. In addition, it could also get Forsythe’s bat in the lineup, and rest his surgically repaired knee on occasion, while potentially being able to get another Padres top-prospect bat (Gyorko) in the lineup in hopes of continuing to bolster their offensive production.