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From The Archives: What's So Great About Miguel Cabrera?

Baseball America has produced a lot of content over the years, and sometimes we stumble across something in the archives that is just too good not to share. Here's an Ask BA from Feb. 20, 2001, where James Bailey answered a question about a then very-young Marlins prospect coming off of a solid but unspectacular year in the Gulf Coast League.

Q: There is a lot of hype surrounding Miguel Cabrera, the supposed future shortstop for the Florida Marlins. Everyone I know is raving about him, but unfortunately his stats and build aren't showing. He batted just .260 with just two homers in the Gulf Coast League. Those don't seem to be star stats and form. I understand that he is just 17, but do you really think he will be a star?

You guys say that he may contend for batting crowns and home-run titles? Why is that? What do you guys see in this kid? I understand he is just starting out so anything can happen, but I am bewildered! Please clear this for me and many others.

-- Brian from Portland, Ore.

A: What is scouting, really? How do scouts go about doing their job? How do they decide to hand out $1.9 million to a kid, establishing a new record for players from his country? Well, one thing they rarely consider is his statistics.

When scouts look at a 16-year-old kid, which is how old Cabrera was when he signed, and they see a great batting eye, a compact swing and plus power potential, their eyes light up. When he tosses in a strong arm and soft hands, they really get excited. These are all traits Cabrera has. He has the tools that the Marlins project will turn into numbers by the time he reaches the big leagues. (There are some who feel he'll move to third base in time, but that doesn't take too much of the luster off for me.)

Scouts, farm directors, managers and others in the game don't care much about numbers in the Gulf Coast League. In some respects they shouldn't even bother keeping them, especially for 17-year-old kids away from home for the first time. But they do. And when I look at a stat line for a kid like Cabrera and see he hit .260 with two homers in his debut, I think, hey, that's not too shabby.

Are they star stats? Well, are these?

Player Avg. AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Player A .246 167 32 41 6 2 0 22 15 29 1
Player B .278 180 29 50 9 0 0 23 13 30 5
Player C .217 69 6 15 5 0 0 7 7 17 2
Player D .240 233 24 56 4 1 0 36 21 57 7
Player E .191 94 8 18 4 0 1 9 3 19 1
Player F .173 104 14 18 1 1 0 5 18 24 1

Those are the debut numbers from a handful of players in short-season leagues. Do they look like the statistics of anyone worth keeping? Player A is Tony Batista, 1992, Arizona League. Player B is Carlos Beltran, 1995, GCL. Player C is Bobby Bonilla, 1981, GCL. Player D is Juan Gonzalez, 1986, GCL. Player E is Javy Lopez, 1988, GCL. Player F is Edgar Martinez, 1983, Northwest League—and he played college ball in Puerto Rico first. Not everyone burns from the start.

I'm sure I've said it before, but in case you weren't paying attention, don't read too much into numbers from players in their debut season, especially in Rookie ball. It's not how they hit in the GCL that matters. It's how they'll hit in the big leagues.

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