JUPITER, Fla. -- Acquired by the Cardinals to help supplement their left-handed pitching depth, Genesis Cabrera, with a dazzling first impression, has quickly put himself on the radar as someone who could help the Major League club as soon as this season.Cabrera -- ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Cards'
JUPITER, Fla. -- Acquired by the Cardinals to help supplement their left-handed pitching depth, Genesis Cabrera, with a dazzling first impression, has quickly put himself on the radar as someone who could help the Major League club as soon as this season.
Cabrera -- ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Cards' No. 13 prospect -- enters his first Major League camp on the heels of a sensational winter ball season. Pitching out of the bullpen in the Dominican Winter League, Cabrera struck out 21 while walking two and allowing two runs over 14 1/3 innings. The dominance, while obvious in the numbers, was further reaffirmed by the multiple unbiased talent evaluators who reached out to manager Mike Shildt with unsolicited praise for the 22-year-old lefty.:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
"Caught my attention," Shildt said. "Caught our attention."
Cabrera still has it.
He climbed through the Rays' system as a starter and jumped right into the Double-A Springfield rotation after joining the Cardinals organization in last summer's Tommy Pham trade. The club hasn't ruled out a long-term rotation fit for Cabrera, but it's also intrigued by the possibility of a quick rise as a reliever.
It's the path that other power arms -- including Carlos Martínez, Trevor Rosenthal and Jordan Hicks -- have taken in recent years. Some, like Martinez, eventually returned to starting. Others never looked back.
"I feel very comfortable throwing out of the bullpen," Cabrera said, speaking through a translator. "I feel like I can throw the ball harder and more efficient in that role. I was impressed with the velocity and how high it went."
That velocity ticked up as high as 97-98 mph while pitching this winter. As a starter, it sat more in the 92-95 mph range.
How the Cardinals utilize Cabrera to begin the season remains under discussion. The team does want to stretch him out a bit in spring, though Grapefruit League innings will be at a premium with a half-dozen other starters in camp. The club also wants to be mindful of not pushing Cabrera too hard too soon given his winter workload.
"He's going to be a guy who we evaluate as we go," Shildt said. "But he's a guy definitely we're excited about watching."
With Grapefruit League play set to kick off in a week, Shildt confirmed that Marcell Ozuna and Yadier Molina will make their early-game appearances as designated hitters. Both Ozuna (right shoulder) and Molina (left knee) are following modified spring programs after needing offseason surgeries.
The Cardinals are confident that both will be ready to play the field with plenty of time to get ready for the start of the regular season.
On the infield
Look for utilityman Drew Robinson to prioritize his spring defensive work in the infield, given that the Cardinals already feel comfortable with Robinson's readiness to play any of the three outfield spots.
Robinson, who came to the Cardinals in a Dec. 11 trade with the Rangers, has started at least 100 games at second base, third base, center field and right field during his nine professional seasons. He has also played a bit of first base, left field and shortstop. That versatility will be a selling point for Robinson as he tries to make the team as a left-handed bat off the bench.
STEP camp plans
The Cardinals have invited 29 Minor Leaguers, including three of the club's top 10 prospects per MLB Pipeline, to participate in their Spring Training Early Program (STEP), which will begin next week. Players are scheduled to arrive on Friday, undergo physicals on Saturday and then start on-field work on Sunday.
Highlighting the group of participants will be third basemen Nolan Gorman, Elehuris Montero and Malcom Nunez, all of whom rate as high-ceiling offensive players. Former first-round pick Delvin Perez, as well as first baseman Luken Baker and outfielder Conner Capel, will also be in attendance.
The camp is designed to give this select group of players a head start in workouts so that they will be ready to fill holes once Grapefruit League play begins. These players will also sit through various seminars and meet with the Major League coaching staff leading up to the start of Minor League camp on March 8.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.