Edward Cabrera turns 21 on Saturday. He gave himself a pretty good birthday present two days early.
Miami's No. 8 prospect set a career high with nine strikeouts, allowing just one hit and two walks over six innings to lead Class A Advanced Jupiter to a 2-0 win over Florida at Osceola County Stadium on Thursday.
The performance gave Cabrera (1-1) his first win and longest outing of the young season. The nine strikeouts trumped his previous career high of eight, a number he hit twice last season with Class A Greensboro, most recently on July 5.
Gameday box score
"He was just under control throughout," Hammerheads pitching coach Reid Cornelius said. "He was in control of his body. He was in control of his mechanics. When you control the body, you control the pitches. He was a little too juiced up in his first start, but he had all three pitches working today and they were all plus. He just pitched very well."
The right-hander retired the first five Fire Frogs he faced -- four via the strikeout -- before giving up his only hit of the afternoon, a two-out double to center field by Drew Lugbauer in the second frame. Only three Fire Frogs reached the rest of the way -- Shean Michel on a throwing error by third baseman Gunnar Schubert in the third, Greyson Jenista on a walk in the fourth and Michel again on a free pass in the fifth. The latter two baserunners were caught trying to steal second by catcher B.J. Lopez. Cabrera finished after a perfect sixth with 95 pitches, 58 for strikes. Seven of the nine whiffs were swinging strike threes.
Cabrera possesses a plus-plus fastball that has touched triple digits, along with an above-average slider and developing changeup. Cornelius noted the fastball topped out at 96 mph Thursday and averaged around 94 throughout the outing, but it was the changeup, which was given a 45 grade on the 20-80 scale from MLB.com this offseason, that may have stood out most.
"It was really good," his coach said. "He got a lot of swings-and-misses with it, a lot of weak contact, short fly balls to the outfield, stuff like that. You have to remember that it's a power pitch. It can average around 92 or 93, and today, it was about 90-92. It's almost like a two-seamer, but when you've got a fastball coming in the upper-90s, it can really keep guys off. Then you add in the width plus the action and the way it goes down, it can be a really good pitch."
Cabrera's control was his biggest weak point in 2018 when he walked 42 in 100 1/3 innings and posted a 9.6 percent walk rate that ranked 26th among South Atlantic League pitchers with at least 100 innings. That resurfaced in his Class A Advanced debut against Palm Beach last Friday, when he allowed four earned runs on five hits and four walks over 4 1/3 innings. But the Marlins have identified what could be causing some of the location woes with Cabrera, and Cornelius thinks the right-hander is capable of Thursday's performance on a consistent basis when things are clicking.
"The big thing with him is waiting until he has his foot down to start accelerating," the coach said. "We liken it to hitters. It's tough to make good contact if your foot isn't down yet or if you're opening up too early. If every part of your body isn't in sync, then things break down. He can't do anything until that foot is down. So he slowed things down today, maybe too slow at times, but he was in rhythm and he could see the results."
2019 MiLB include
So Cornelius thinks the building blocks are in place for a promising season from Cabrera, who is roughly the same age as a college junior.
"He's a young pitcher," the coach said. "You can't just give them a bottle of experience, have them drink it and have that fix everything. He has to learn from his mistakes and his successes, and that starts with being calm in his delivery like he was today."
Atlanta's No. 17 prospect Freddy Tarnok did not factor into the decision after allowing two hits and a walk while fanning five in five innings for Florida. Lefty reliever Jon Kennedy gave up an RBI groundout by Cameron Baranek and an RBI single by Schubert in the seventh.