RAMON CABRERA
CATCHER
Born: November 5, 1989
Height: 5′ 7″
Weight: 202
Bats: Both
Throws: Right
Signed: Pittsburgh Pirates, 2008
How Acquired: Waiver claim (from Tigers)
Country: Venezuela
Agent: N/A

WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES

According to Baseball America, Cabrera signed with the Pirates after converting to catcher.  Consequently, he’s still relatively inexperienced at the position.  He has solid skills in most areas, but the limiting factor with him will be his lack of height and stocky build.  His calling card is a line drive bat and excellent ability to make contact.  He’s decent at receiving and blocking pitches, but he’s increasingly had trouble with base stealers as he lacks a strong arm.  He does run better than you’d expect, at least for now.  He’s the son of Alex Cabrera, who became a premier slugger in Japan.

The Pirates traded Cabrera to Detroit for Andy Oliver after the 2012 season.  In August 2014, though, they got him back on a waiver claim.

2008
VSL:  264/367/404, 178 AB, 16 2B, 3 HR, 28 BB, 27 K, 5-5 SB

Cabrera had a good debut in VSL, hitting for decent average with doubles power and good plate discipline.  He had one more walk than strikeout and threw out 40% of base stealers.

2009
VSL:  312/400/468, 77 AB, 6 2B, 2 HR, 12 BB, 11 K, 1-3 SB
R:  291/372/417, 127 AB, 11 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 16 BB, 16 K, 2-3 SB

Opened the season back in VSL and hit well in 20 games, but once the GCL season began he moved to the baby Bucs.  He continued to hit for average with doubles power and a very good eye at the plate, with the same number of walks as Ks.  He threw out 35% of base stealers in the VSL and 29% in the GCL.

2010
A:  269/312/342, 342 AB, 14 2B, 4 3B, 1 HR, 22 BB, 42 K, 3-7 SB

Cabrera spent the year as the primary catcher at West Virginia.  He hit for a respectable average and made very good contact, fanning only once every eight and a half ABs, but the lack of power and walks left him with weak offensive numbers.  He also started having more problems with base stealers, throwing out only 21%.  That was a good deal below the two catchers who backed him up at different points during the year.  Opponents tried to steal on him 158 times in 90 games, which was an above average frequency for the league, although not by a great deal.  He was solid otherwise behind the plate, with a PB total (12) that wasn’t bad.

2011
A+:  343/410/471, 327 AB, 25 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 38 BB, 29 K, 5-6 SB

At Bradenton, Cabrera had a big year, winning the FSL batting title, a rarity for a catcher.  He struck out fewer than one time every eleven ABs and walked easily more than he fanned.  He played in only two-thirds of the Marauders’ games, due to several factors:  rehab stints by Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit; the need for increased playing time for backup catcher Carlos Paulino, who had a big season of his own; and a couple minor injuries.  Cabrera had no platoon split at all.  Defensively, he struggled, throwing out only 13% of base stealers.  It can’t be blamed on the pitchers, as Paulino threw out 29% and teams tried to steal on Cabrera about 50% more often than they did on Paulino.  Cabrera also had 14 passed balls in 78 games, which was a high rate for the league.

2012
AA:  276/342/367, 384 AB, 22 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 39 BB, 44 K, 0-3 SB
AAA:  400/400/600, 5 AB, 1 2B

Cabrera opened the season backing up Tony Sanchez at Altoona.  He also served as the DH frequently.  When the Pirates moved Sanchez up to AAA in June, Cabrera became the starter.  He struggled through June, batting just .232, although he continued his career-long pattern of making contact consistently.  In July and August he came around with the bat, posting an OPS of .791 and .843, respectively.  His defense improved, as he threw out 20% and committed only five passed balls in 85 games.  He moved up to Indianapolis at the end of the season when Jose Morales got hurt and did some of the catching in the playoffs.  After the season, the Pirates added Cabrera to the 40-man roster, but two weeks later they traded him to Detroit for Andy Oliver.

2013
AA:  304/392/388, 312 AB, 22 2B, 2 3B, 44 BB, 34 K, 4-4 SB
AAA:  242/311/336, 149 AB, 9 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 14 BB, 21 K, 0-1 SB

The Tigers sent Cabrera back to AA, where he spent two-thirds of the season.  He moved up to AAA for most of May and June, with a brief visit back to AA in the midst of that stint.  He wasn’t overmatched in AAA, but didn’t hit especially well.  The Tigers sent him back to AA for the last two months of the season.  They didn’t have anybody especially good catching in AAA, so it’s not clear why they didn’t keep Cabrera there.  In AA, Cabrera hit slightly better than he had the previous year.  For some reason, Baseball Reference doesn’t have his CS numbers for either level.

2014
AA (Det):  277/329/358, 394 AB, 17 2B, 5 HR, 33 BB, 37 K, 1-1 SB
AA (Pgh):  239/286/439, 46 AB, 5 2B, 1 HR, 3 BB, 6 K, 0-1 SB

The Tigers went with James McCann as their AAA catcher and sent Cabrera back to AA.  He didn’t hit as well as before, although he did show a little more power.  On the season, including time with Altoona, he hit almost exactly the same right-handed as left-handed.  He threw out 28% of base stealers.  The Tigers removed him from their 40-man roster in mid-August and the Pirates claimed him.  Ironically, the Tigers removed Cabrera to create space for pitcher Buck Farmer so Farmer could start against the Pirates.  Cabrera took over the catching job at Altoona for the season’s last two weeks, with Elias Diaz moving up to AAA.  He threw out six of 15 base stealers.

The Pirates are facing the probable loss of Russell Martin and were probably trying to add upper level catching depth by adding Cabrera.  With Diaz and Tony Sanchez already in the organization, though, it’s hard to see what Cabrera adds.  Quantity won’t replace the quality Martin provided.  Cabrera also isn’t likely to be an option in the majors for some time, as he’s played in AAA only briefly and the Pirates are very unlikely to call up an inexperienced catcher.  At most, if they don’t add another catcher, he’d be in AAA with Diaz — who should get the lion’s share of the playing time — with Chris Stewart and Sanchez in Pittsburgh.  He’s got one more option left.  If they do add a catcher or somehow miraculously bring Martin back, Cabrera will probably be a candidate to come off the 40-man roster.

STATS
Baseball Reference–Minors
Fangraphs
MiLB.com
CONTRACT INFORMATION
2015: Major League Minimum
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2008
MLB Debut: N/A
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2020
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/12
Options Remaining: 1 (USED:  2013, 2014)
MLB Service Time: 0.000
TRANSACTIONS
July 2, 2008: Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an international free agent.
November 20, 2012: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
December 5, 2012: Traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Detroit Tigers for Andy Oliver.
August 13, 2014: Claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Detroit Tigers.