It's hard to believe, but it has been nearly five years since the Cleveland Indians traded first baseman Eduardo Perez to the Seattle Mariners for a little known Triple-A prospect named Asdrubal Cabrera.
At the time of the 2006 trade, all that many Tribe fans knew about Cabrera was that he was a switch-hitting shortstop that came up through the Mariners organization, hit for a high average, had speed on the bases, was a native of Venezuela and wore the No. 13.
Call me crazy, but just reading that amateur scouting report of Cabrera would make almost any Cleveland sports fan yell out the name Omar Vizquel, the former beloved Indians shortstop throughout the 1990s.
All Cleveland fans could hope for out of this new young Mariners shortstop was that he would at least become half the player Vizquel was during his time with Indians.
Little did they know the names Omar and Asdrubal would eventually be said in the same sentence just a few years later.
Fast forward five years and that little known Seattle Mariners prospect has now become not only the Tribe's best hitter to date, but arguably the best all-around shortstop in the entire American League.
During his first four big league seasons in Cleveland, Asdrubal has not only helped the Indians during their magical postseason run in 2007, but has been one of the most consistent contributors both offensively and defensively with the Tribe.
Coming into the 2011 season, Cabrera's career stats were as followed:
.282 AVG, 18 HR, 116 RBI
This would average out per season to a stat line of:
.282 AVG, 5 HR, 42 RBI
So far this season though, the Venezuelan native has all but shattered those average season numbers, and the Indians are only 58 games into the regular season!
Currently hitting in the two-hole of the Indians lineup, Cabrera has opened the eyes of many baseball fans so wide that he is even gaining national recognition as far as American League All-Star votes go, where he is currently placed second behind New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter as the lead vote leader for all AL shortstops.
You may remember a similar hype last season with a different player, as the entire baseball world was stunned with the kind of season Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista was putting together.
The Dominican Republic native eventually demolished his career records in runs, hits, home runs, RBI and both on-base and slugging percentage, and has become one of the most feared hitters in the game.
Well baseball fans, I'm here to tell you that Cabrera could very well be the next Jose Bautista in the making.
Am I saying the Indians shortstop will hit well above .350 with 50-plus home runs? Absolutely not.
What I am saying is that the baseball world must recognize the huge potential for Cabrera to continue to soar and become an even better ballplayer is definitely a big possibility, as he is only 25 years old—five years younger than Bautista.
For a more in-depth look at both major league stars, here is a breakdown of Bautista's stat line at this time last year compared with Cabrera's current stat line as it stands this year:
Jose Bautista (through 238 AB in 2010)
Asdrubal Cabrera (through 240 AB in 2011):
When comparing Cabrera's numbers to Bautista's as they stood almost one year ago, you can clearly see the kind of potential Cabrera has not only for the rest of the 2011 season, but potentially for the next decade as well.
Yes, the Blue Jays star may have had six more home runs and four more RBI than the Tribe shortstop at this point last year, but Cabrera is in front of Bautista in nearly every other offensive category—including a batting average more than 80 points higher than the Blue Jays slugger.
Who would have thought Cabrera would become such a power force at the plate this year, leading the Indians in every major offensive category, surprisingly including home runs?
This after the former Mariners farmhand had just 18 career home runs in 1,415 big league at-bats going into 2011.
The Indians' potential all-star currently ranks second in the American League in hits, fourth in runs scored, fifth in RBI and tied for sixth in home runs. To put it another way, Cabrera has just as many home runs as superstars Robinson Cano and Adrian Gonzalez, and is only one long ball shy of tying power hitters David Ortiz, Paul Konerko and even Miguel Cabrera.
Even if Cabrera does not necessarily get called the next Bautista by every baseball fan around the country, if he continues to rake on offense and Cleveland stays in contention enough to make the playoffs this season, baseball fans may have enough evidence to not call him Cabrera anymore, but rather the 2011 American League MVP.
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