96 mph? Cabrera throws changeup 'like deGrom'

June 2nd, 2022

DENVER -- If you looked up at the Coors Field scoreboard during the second inning of Edward Cabrera’s first Major League start of the season for the Marlins on Wednesday, you’d have seen the following: “95.5 mph -- Changeup.”

And then, like anyone else who follows baseball, you’d have done a double-take.

But it’s true. Cabrera, the Marlins’ No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline (and the No. 48 prospect in baseball), was called up to make his season debut in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Rockies. He did not disappoint -- the 24-year-old right-hander was sitting between 93-99 mph with his four-seam fastball, and yes, he threw 35 changeups with an average velocity of 93.6 mph and a max of 95.5 mph.

Cabrera’s 95.5 mph changeup to the Rockies’ Brendan Rodgers in the second inning was the fastest changeup to be swung on and missed ever recorded.

“He had some electric stuff,” Rodgers said. “And he’s throwing 95 mph changeups. That doesn’t happen pretty much ever. Maybe some guys like [Jacob] deGrom and maybe two or three others have stuff like that.”

Oh, and by the way: Cabrera went six scoreless innings and yielded just one hit while striking out nine in a 14-1 win, though he displayed some command issues, walking four and hitting two batters on 94 pitches. (The nightcap of the twin bill wasn’t as kind to Miami, with a back-and-forth slugfest that ended in Colorado winning, 13-12, on a Rodgers walk-off homer in the 10th, his third home run of the game.)

How, you ask, does a 96 mph changeup help when the fastball is about the same velocity? Cabrera’s four-seamer Wednesday had an average vertical break of 17 inches. The changeup? Twenty-four inches.

“The thing is, I throw it like a fastball,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “That’s the way it goes. I always throw it as a fastball so it has that kind of [action].”

Cabrera induced 21 swings on changeups and got 10 whiffs. His four-seamer was swung on 10 times and missed five times. He also threw in 18 sliders and seven curveballs for good measure. The full repertoire was on display in an impressive outing that left Rockies hitters baffled and on-lookers in awe.

Not only did Cabrera turn in a strong performance in his eighth Major League start and first of 2022, but he did it in the most hitter-friendly environment in the Majors.

“It feels great,” Cabrera said. “But most important is you can see all the results of all the hard work you put in during the offseason. And again, that’s the most important part: to see those results.”

“We kind of felt like his stuff would play better here,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We talked about trying to get back to Miami [for him to make his season debut] but his stuff is power, power down. So I don’t care where it is, honestly, but he’s ahead in the count with a power changeup, he got his breaking ball over today -- that works anywhere.”

The Marlins signed Cabrera out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. He was shut down due to a right biceps injury in early April of this year and didn't make his Minor League season debut until April 27 for Single-A Jupiter. He yielded one hit, struck out seven and walked three over four scoreless innings before posting a 4.56 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 12 walks over five starts for Triple-A Jacksonville (23 2/3 innings).

A biceps issue also sidelined Cabrera last year, with an inflamed nerve delaying his season debut until June 6. He made his Major League debut on Aug. 25 against the Nationals, giving up three runs on four hits while walking three and striking out two over 6 1/3 innings. Overall, he finished with a 5.81 ERA over seven MLB starts in 2021.

Across three levels in the Minors last year -- Single-A through Triple-A -- Cabrera had a 2.93 ERA over 13 starts (61 1/3 innings) and struck out 36.9 percent of the batters he faced, though he also walked 10 percent.

It’s been a challenging journey for Cabrera, but Wednesday was a momentous occasion for him. He dedicated his performance to someone special whom he recently lost.

“This is a game I dedicated to my aunt,” he said. “She passed away a few days ago. I always felt like she was there throughout the whole game. So it was very special for me.”

Wednesday will be a day Cabrera will never forget. It’ll also be a day many others won’t forget either, after what they saw him do. He was informed after the game that his 95.5 mph offering to Rodgers in the second inning made history.

He responded with a shrug of the shoulders and a big smile.

“I didn’t know that,” he said. “I never really pay much attention to those stats.”

Cabrera may not pay much attention to them, but we do. Especially when they involve a 96 mph changeup.