Ninety-nine — a number rarely seen once, let alone multiple times from the same pitcher. In his last start, Mauricio Cabrera touched 99 mph enough for teammates charting in the stands to chuckle and shake their heads in disbelief.
Video after the jump
Of course velocity isn’t the only thing to consider when watching a prospect, but it’s a great starting point from which to build a profile. As Cabrera matures, his elite velocity will allow for a greater margin of error. He may need it.
When not pushing triple digits, Cabrera’s fastball sat in the 94-97 mph range. From a three-quarters arm slot, the pitch featured tail in on the hands of right-handed hitters — especially when he didn’t release the ball out front. When Cabrera did finish correctly, his fastball featured late, explosive life.
With seven walks in just 4 2/3 innings pitched, fastball command was a definite issue. Between Cabrera’s sling shot arm action and a tendency to overthrow, he had little idea where each pitch was going. At 19-years-old, Cabrera has time to refine his command and the build to maintain elite velocity. However, it will be a challenge, as the young right-hander seems content to let fastballs fly with reckless abandon.
Cabrera’s primary breaking pitch was a “slurvy” offering at 81-85 mph. Its movement was sharp late, but lacked depth. At present, it’s a below-average offering with room for improvement.
He also mixed in a changeup touching 91 mph. To throw the pitch, Cabrera slowed his arm action in an attempt to guide it over the plate. This caused him to leave the ball up, resulting in hard hit balls. Like his breaking ball, it’s a below-average offering at present.
This lack of secondary offerings is responsible for his low strikeout totals. If those improve, punch outs will follow. With any semblance of command, Cabrera’s fastball is a big league pitch. Rangers Wilmer Font made his major league debut at 22 with less stuff — even after Tommy John surgery, so it’s not inconceivable that Cabrera could reach the majors.
Another pitcher who looks to be cutting himself a path to the big leagues is Lucas Sims. The Braves’ 2012 first round pick, Sims pitched three scoreless innings the night before I saw Cabrera. After allowing eight earned runs in his first 9 1/3 innings pitched, Sims has thrown seven consecutive scoreless innings.
Sims presents as an elite athlete for the position. His strong, compact frame and fluid movements will allow for better command as he matures. Also 19-years-old, the Georgia native will also grow into more velocity. This leaves him with excellent projection, even though his present velocity was less than expected.
Similar to Cabrera, Sims has struggled with fastball command early in the season. Averaging 90-92 mph and touching 95, Sims’ fastball featured little movement early, but added run in on the hands of right-handed hitters in his final inning of work. He worked both halves of the plate, but was most comfortable working low-and-outside to right-handed hitters. Sims maintained velocity out of the stretch as he weaved in and out of trouble. At present, his fastball is an average pitch with room for improvement as he matures.
Sims paired his fastball with a curveball that flashed as a swing-and-miss offering. At 76-78 mph, the pitch featured sharp, 11/5 break and froze multiple hitters. As with the heater, control of the pitch wavered. If Sims refines fastball command and works more curveball counts, his strikeouts will surge due to the strength of the pitch.
At 82-84 mph, Sims’ changeup was flat and included a slight slowing of his arm action. It’s a below average pitch at present, but it’s normal for young pitchers to enter professional baseball without a good changeup, and this is Sims’ first crack at full-season ball.
In Sims and Cabrera, the Single-A Braves haven’t had a pair of high ceiling right-handed pitchers since Arodys Vizcaino and Julio Teheran in 2010. It’s a welcome sight after thin rosters in 2011-2012 left little about which to write.