Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects: No. 17 Daniel Cabrera

West Michigan Whitecaps outfielder Daniel Cabrera fields fly balls during practice.
West Michigan Whitecaps outfielder Daniel Cabrera fields fly balls during practice. /

We continue our rankings with Daniel Cabrera; ranked our 17th-best Detroit Tigers prospect

The staff at Motor City Bengals put together their own Detroit Tigers prospect ranking independent of one another. Co-site experts Rogelio Castillo and Chris Brown aggregated that info and used the averages to come up with the site’s Top 20.

Next on our countdown is Daniel Cabrera, who had a pro debut season that didn’t quite live up to the expectations that fans were sold on draft night.

Daniel Cabrera’s Background

Cabrera is a Louisiana man through and through; born in Baton Rouge, attended high school in River Ridge, and ultimately decided on LSU for his collegiate career. At LSU, Cabrera would play right away and slashed .315/.405/.525 with eight home runs and 54 RBI, earning him freshman All-SEC honors and the 2018 Louisiana Freshman of the Year award.

After .284/.359/.516 and .345/.466/.500 lines his sophomore and junior seasons, Cabrera entered the draft in 2020 and would get selected by the Detroit Tigers with their second-round pick (62nd overall).

Cabrera didn’t play in 2020 but would get his first full season underway with the West Michigan Whitecaps, where he spent 99 games before a late-season promotion to Double-A Erie. Between his two stops, Cabrera would hit .232/.285/.392 with 13 home runs and 73 RBI.

Daniel Cabrera Strengths

Despite a semi-disappointing debut season offensively, I was impressed with Cabrera’s defensive ability in my looks from last season. While he doesn’t contain the speed necessary to play center, his routes were direct and his glovework and arm could both handle either corner of the outfield long-term.

Coming out of LSU, Cabrera was lauded for his character and while I haven’t heard any specific leadership stories, I’ve also not heard anything to the contrary; making me believe he has transferred those attributes to the pro ranks.

Daniel Cabrera Weaknesses

Coming out of the draft, Cabrera was sold as an all-around, sum-of-the-parts-type player who had some everyday upside out of LSU. Unfortunately, Cabrera never quite made enough contact to suggest those aspirations might come to fruition at the highest level.

I realize that contact and batting average are somewhat overrated and strikeouts are no longer a nail to any prospects’ big-league coffin, but in the context of Cabrera’s game, he does need to lower his strikeout numbers and make more contact. Part of it is position–typically those corner outfield stables are reserved for thumpers in a lineup. Part of it is his current skill set and playing into that.

20-25 home runs are essentially a pre-requisite for a corner outfield role in the big leagues. If Cabrera lands more in that 15-20 range, his ability to handle the bat despite the lower power numbers might carry him into a larger role at the highest levels.

Of course, there is a possibility that Cabrera could sell out for power too. The issue with that is there isn’t a ton more room for swing-and-miss in the profile, so there is a chance that harder swings may only compound the contact issues.

Our take on Daniel Cabrera

If Cabrera can get his .240 average more into the .280 range, that alone could put him into the conversation for an everyday profile. Based on his 2021 performance, though, a bench outfield role appears most likely for Cabrera; a guy that could do a little bit of everything or possibly play on the right side of a platoon (although Cabrera’s splits don’t suggest his struggles against same-sided pitching).

Cabrera likely starts his 2022 in Erie; look for him to improve upon his .174 average when he played there in 17 games last season. There is a bit of a logjam of reserve outfield bats in Detroit currently, so a best-case scenario for Cabrera likely involves him finishing the season in Toledo for the Mud Hens.