The versatile Cabrera has cooled off since his scalding start in Houston, but he’s still impressed while filling in for DJ LeMahieu.

Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

For the Yankees, one of the most pleasant surprises of the season has been Oswaldo Cabrera’s performance so far. After posting a .211/.275/.299 line with a 60 wRC+ in 115 games last year, expectations weren’t particularly high for 2024.

However, Cabrera has been swinging a hot bat in his first nine games this year. DJ LeMahieu has been out with a foot injury, so Cabrera has stepped in and hit a cool .333/.389/.545 with a pair of homers and a 176 wRC+. That, coupled with his cheap pre-arbitration contract and defensive versatility make him a helpful piece to have on the 2024 Bombers.

Cabrera finds himself in an interesting situation. He has both matured and enjoyed his share of good fortune as a hitter this year. Both things can be true, and they both apply in this particular case. After using a high leg kick for most of last year, Cabrera adopted a slight toe-tap approach to get to the ball quicker. So far, the results have been satisfactory on that front.

To wit, here is a swing from 2023:

And here is one from a couple of days ago:

Sometimes (most of the time, if we are being honest) it’s best to keep things simple. A toe-tap allows Cabrera to get his hips and hands to the ball sooner and maximize damage on contact.

The different approach to hitting has been beneficial to him, as has been watching Soto hit and focus on line drives instead of trying to hit fly balls all the time. The Athletic had some interesting quotes on that a few weeks ago:

“The one big thing that I see from that guy is he doesn’t try to hit fly balls. He’s not trying to hit the ball in the air every time. His hands just get quick to the ball. That’s what got my attention. He’s always trying to hit line drives. When I saw Soto hitting in the cage for the first time, it was low line drives all of the time, so what am I doing trying to hit homers all of the time? I talked with the hitting coaches about it — obviously, Soto and I are not the same. But I’ve been trying to take some of the things he does into my game.”

For what it’s worth, his line drive rate was 16 percent last year according to Baseball Savant. It is up to 20 percent now. Line drives are a desirable outcome for a hitter like Cabrera. He’s also tweaked his switch-hitter status, as he will bat lefty-on-lefty against some pitchers if he thinks he can see the ball a little better out of their hands. If nothing else, it’s an indication that he’s willing to tinker with his game for the best results.

Yet, I would be remiss if I don’t point out that the baseball gods have smiled on Cabrera in his batted-ball outcomes so far. Of course, nine games isn’t enough of a sample to make concrete conclusions of any kind, but it’s what we have to go by. A look under the hood tells us that Oswaldo has been performing a bit over his head. For example, his wOBA is .411 but his expected wOBA (xwOBA) is a much worse .286. This metric indicates his quantity and quality of contact haven’t been ideal.

Cabrera’s hard-hit rates, barrels per plate appearance and average exit velocity are virtually unchanged compared to last year:

Oswaldo Cabrera metrics 2023-24


Avg. Exit Velo
Hard-hit rate

87.8 mph

87.2 mph

Cabrera’s Statcast profile still shows more blue than red:

Baseball Savant

So Cabrera has made some strides, but still has a lot to prove to be considered a reliable contributor. The Yankees appear to have the same line of thinking, as Jon Berti has made consecutive starts in the past couple days. The odds are that the Yankees will continue to give Cabrera looks at third, but in more of a split role — as originally planned when LeMahieu hit the IL and Berti was acquired.

We would understand that looking at the last couple of visuals might have you wondering where exactly Cabrera has matured. But he has. As stated, he has a clear plan at the plate, he is focusing on hitting the ball hard but not necessarily on fly balls, and his line drive rate is higher than last year.

Additionally, he is doing a much better job making contact. Cabrera’s swinging-strike rate sits at 5.6 percent, per FanGraphs. That’s a marked improvement from last year, which was 10.5 percent and his career mark of 11.1 percent.

Cabrera’s contact rate has gone from 79.1 percent to 86.9 percent, and his O-swing% (the rate at which hitters swing at pitches outside of the strike zone) went from 31.2 percent to 24.4 percent in 2024. Again, the sample is tiny and should be taken with a grain of salt, but these positive signs are worth noting.

It’s also nice to see Cabrera holding his own after the furious run in his first three games. Those contests are still doing the heavy lifting when it comes to his stat line (.538/.538/1.077, with all three of his extra-base hits), but he has a 4/3 SO/BB ratio, four hits and a couple of RBI in six games after that blistering start. Granted, they have accounted for a mediocre .504 OPS, but baseball is a game of adjustments. It’s Cabrera’s turn now.

Does he have what it takes to adjust back and keep on evolving as a hitter?