The Case for Asdrubal Cabrera and Yuniesky Betancourt, Part Two

n.p. RinaldiCorrespondent IFebruary 24, 2008

In Part One of this fantasy baseball note, we set the scene for our headline players, Asdrubal Cabrera and Yuniesky Betancourt.

As I try to convince myself and the throngs of skeptical fantasy owners out there about the value of these players, I think it will be helpful to do some statistical comparisons.

Beginning with Asdrubal and comparing him with another young American League 2B, Robinson Canó, I believe we'll start to see some similarities between their first Major League experiences.

  • RC: .297 BA/.320 OBP/.458 SLG/4.25 K-to-BB with ~33% of hits for extra bases
  • AC: .283 BA/.354 OBP/.421 SLG/1.71 K-to-BB with ~31% of hits for extra bases

Of course, it can be argued that Canó produced those numbers in 522 AB and that Cabrera's sampling was only 159 AB in his first season.

However, with Cabrera's impressive K-to-BB ratio against Major League pitching and a Minor League ratio of 1.83 accumulated over nearly 1,500 AB, a patient approach at the plate and ability to make contact provides a great opportunity to translate itself into an even higher OBP and SLG as he continues to mature against Major League pitching.

Cabrera might not hit for as much power as Canó, who racked up 41 doubles and 19 HR in 2007, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him consistently bat above .300 and perhaps even tickle a .400 OBP, which might contribute to making both these players All-Star regulars at 2B in the American League for years to come.

Plus, if the Indians open up their running game (only 72 SB last season as a team), Cabrera's high OBP could pay dividends in the stolen base department. He stole 23 bases in 96 games last season while with Akron of the Eastern League (AA).

In my team's case, it made much more sense to sign Asdrubal Cabrera for $13 per year over four years than try to sign Canó who now commands $34 per year in my particular league.

For reference, since Cabrera qualifies at both 2B and SS (and we already covered SS in Part One), here are the contracts awarded to this year's crop of free agent 2B in my league:

  • Robinson Canó (4 years, $34 per year)
  • Brian Roberts (1 year, $25 per year)
  • Aaron Hill (2 years, $21 per year)
  • Asdrubal Cabrera (4 years, $13 per year)

At first glance it may seem more difficult to defend Yuniesky Betancourt than it was to do so for Cabrera. I ran into the same problem when it came time to sign him. Can this guy actually produce or is he another Cristian Guzman or Omar Infante-type?

Betancourt has been consistent over his first two Major League seasons, hitting .289 with a .310 OBP and 8 HR in 2006 and .308 OBP, 9 HR in 2007.

Although consistent, these stats don't jump out at you. He is most glaringly hindered by an inability to draw walks, which in turn damages his runs scored and stolen bases.

However, given my team's situation as described in Part One, I realized that I wasn't in need of a "six tool" player but rather had to look at what Betancourt does well in order to see if he can produce in at least three statistical categories. If he could do that for my team and cost one-third as much as Jhonny Peralta, he would be a worthy replacement.

Taking a look at Yuniesky's situational hitting stats, I became much more optimistic:

  • Runners On: .325 BA / .344 OBP / .439 SLG
  • RISP (<2outs): .345 BA / .365 OBP / .476 SLG
  • RISP (2outs): .290 BA / .319 OBP / .420 SLG

Each of these situational stats are above his season totals and go a long way to explaining why he drove in 20 more runs in 2007 than he did in 2006 with 22 less at-bats. Since it is Spring Training and hope does spring eternal, I see no reason why Betancourt will not hit just as well in these same situations in 2008, boosting his RBI total once again.

Furthermore, the talk coming out of Mariners camp this spring is that the they will be a team on the run. Manager, John McLaren has stated he hopes that Betancourt will steal between 20 and 40 bases this year, which would also indicate he anticipates Yuniesky will raise his OBP to a level that would allow him to run so often.

I may be accused of drinking the Yuni-Aid since Betancourt's OBP actually declined last year and he did only steal five bases, but with the prospect of a season that could resemble .315 OBP / .430 SLG / 75+ R / 10+ HR / 70+ RBI / 15+ SB, I'd be crazy not to give Betancourt a shot given the lack of depth amongst American League SS.

The moral of this fantasy note is that by finding the positives in Yuniesky and Asdrubal, I saved my team $37 to allocate to other more prestigious players instead of chasing Peralta or Canó who may produce only marginally better statistics than Cabrera or Betancourt.

It can be a tough balancing act evaluating talent in a contractual keeper league where the stakes area bit higher. Of course if it works out, then you've paved the way for a league championship. If it doesn't, at least in this case, you have a choice of handsome names for your first-born.


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