Tigers roster: Ramon Cabrera could see time as backup catcher

US PRESSWIRE

Where better to begin the position player previews than with a Cabrera?

Yesterday, Patrick began our season previews of all the players on the Tigers' 40-man roster. We will alternate between pitchers and position players, progressing toward players most likely to be on the active roster.

Our first hitter has played most of his career as a catcher, though he occasionally will play first or occupy the designated hitter slot. He hails from Venezuela. He is a switch-hitter, and throws from the right side. He is a career .290 hitter, with an on-base percentage of .362. But his name is not Victor Martinez. It can't be V-Mart, because V-Mart is sure to make the active roster.

Instead, this is a Cabrera. Not THE Cabrera, A Cabrera. Ramon Cabrera. The stats are for his six minor league seasons, yet he is 24 years young.

Cabrera came to Detroit from Pittsburgh a year ago in exchange for Andy Oliver. A side note: Oliver made 24 starts in Triple-A, walking over eight per nine innings. He was moved to the bullpen.

Cabrera started the year in Double-A Erie, with a batting average of .304 and on-base percentage of .392. These are stellar numbers for a catcher. He earned a promotion to Toledo but declined in 39 games to .242 and .311.

And yet a .738 OPS for a catcher splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A in his age 23 season is worth a look. But is he a catcher? Cabrera has a reputation as a good receiver, but has only caught 22% of attempted steals in his minor league career. He projects to be another Brayan Pena, not Victor Martinez. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Keys to Success

If Cabrera simply stays on track, he will be a major league backup catcher. His Oliver projection is for a 0.8 WAR, which by definition has value. But he projects to have only one home run every 100 plate appearances. If Ramon can either add some power or further develop his receiving skills, he could be a starting major league catcher.

Odd Numbers

Ramon Cabrera puts the bat on the ball, with a strikeout rate approaching 10%. He walks nearly as often as he strikes out. All that contact leads to a good batting average, though with surprisingly little power.

2014 Outlook

Expect to see R. Cabrera in Detroit this summer when Avila or Holaday needs a couple weeks off. James McCann is the more favored prospect, but would need a spot on the 40 man roster. The most pressing question is when Ramon arrives in Detroit, will they modify Miggy's uniform to read "M. Cabrera"?

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