Marlins prospect Cabrera to debut vs. Nats

August 24th, 2021

MIAMI -- First time. 100. 11-07-2017.

That is the message inked on the left side of ’s neck, serving as a reminder of his triple-digit fastball. The Marlins hope the radar gun lights up with that reading when MLB Pipeline’s No. 30 overall prospect makes his Major League debut on Wednesday against the Nationals at loanDepot park. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.

"It means everything to me," Cabrera said via an interpreter on Tuesday. "I've been waiting for this moment since I was a little kid, and I also know that I have a family supporting me and waiting for this moment as well."

The 23-year-old right-hander compiled a 2.93 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 13 starts across three Minor League levels in 2021, as he worked back from an inflamed nerve in his right biceps. Cabrera arrived at Spring Training with that injury, and his season didn't begin until June 6 at Low-A Jupiter. In six starts for Triple-A Jacksonville, Cabrera struck out 48 batters in 29 1/3 innings, fanning at least 11 in three of the outings. He last appeared in a game on Thursday at Durham.

"I've got to tell you, it wasn't an easy process," Cabrera said. "It was something a little bit hard that I needed to trust my trainers and everybody in the organization, and keep working and never put my head down. I was always working hard for the process."

According to MLB Pipeline, Cabrera's best weapon is a fastball that sits at 93-97 mph and climbs into triple digits, with heavy life and a downhill plane he creates with his 6-foot-5 frame. Cabrera induces a lot of weak ground-ball contact. His slider improved during his last full season in 2019, as it ranged from 82-85 mph with increased bite. Cabrera also maintained more consistent velocity separation between his heater and changeup.

Scouting grades (20-80)
Fastball: 65
Slider: 60
Changeup: 55
Control: 50
Overall: 55

Cabrera, who went unsigned when first eligible in 2014 out of the Dominican Republic, turned pro for $100,000 a year later. Miami's highest-ranking pitching prospect first dreamt of being a big leaguer at the age of 13.

The flamethrowing Cabrera likely would've debuted in 2020, had it not been for minor shoulder soreness; he even traveled with the Marlins during the club's postseason run, soaking up advice from his teammates and absorbing nuances of the game from the field rather than the television.

Asked last week whether the organization would prefer for Cabrera to finish his season in the Minors or in the Majors, general manager Kim Ng said the right-hander would be one of the names in consideration for a callup. Earlier in August, Ng had this to say:

"He's been good. Hopefully we get to see him at some point. No guarantees, but if he continues on that track, hopefully we'll get to see him."

The Marlins have dealt with a multitude of injuries to their starting pitchers on the 40-man roster, which has led to a franchise record 17 pitchers receiving a start in 2021. The second half has been particularly tricky, with right-hander Pablo López sidelined with a right rotator cuff strain and All-Star Trevor Rogers on the restricted list (previously on family medical emergency and bereavement lists). That pair is close to returning. Manager Don Mattingly said there has even been discussion of turning to a six-man rotation.

"Our rotation has kind of been evolving through the course of the year," Mattingly said. "Guys back and forth, where we constantly needed 'pen guys and things like that. I think now seems to be the right time, because our plan would be to kind of be part of the mix now and moving forward. I don't think they wanted to do it until they felt like he'd had enough and we were ready to put him in and just leave him in.

"In the not-too-distant future, we're going to have all our guys, and it's going to be nice to be able to see what this rotation looks like through the month of September, and being able to give everybody experience. Get Trevor back out there and let him finish up his year, get Pablo back out there hopefully healthy to finish up his year. Elieser [Hernandez will] continue to get starts and let this rotation kind of go through the end of the month."