Jose Caballero ended up getting a lot of play in 2023 for the Mariners, and it was a lot of fun to watch. Well, it was a lot of fun to watch if you were a Mariners fan. I have a feeling that Cabby is definitely one of the guys that you like seeing on the team that you root for, and not playing against the team that you root for.
It seemed like he had a multitude of occurrences where he got into a pitcher's head at the plate, throwing off their timing, making them receive pitch clock violations, or causing them to throw a hissy fit like a child. He ended up having a pretty good season for the Mariners, and that peskiness that he brings is an intrinsical piece of his value that can be hard to capture correctly on paper.
He ended 2023 with a 2.2 fWAR in 104 games, but just 280 PA, so about half a season's worth of appearances at the plate. That's an impressive mark and shows you the value he brings in the field as well as on the bases with his 26 stolen bases. He had positive marks on both offense and defense, but STEAMER doesn't see that going forward.
Part of it is limiting his playing time in their projections. They drop him down to 62 games, but just 40 less PA. His steals are projected to nearly be cut in half, and they see him as a below average defender in dWAR on their projections. It comes out to a total of 0.8 fWAR. Are we really only going to see 36% of what we saw last year in value? That seems odd to me.
He's entering his prime years, as he will be 27 for the 2024 season. STEAMER has him similar in a lot of stats, projecting a .225/.335/.345 slash line, with nine doubles, four homers, and 14 steals. He does walk a lot, so his speed continues to play with how often he is on first base. He reached first 82 times last year (singles + walks + HBP), but they only have him at 65 this coming season. HBP are hard to predict, but he seems like someone who could enjoy getting hit knowing it messes with the pitcher.
I think Cabby is a guy who is more than his WAR. Not so much a Draymond Green, but more a Patrick Beverely or Marcus Smart... or a Jose Alvarado! (sorry if the basketball stuff doesn't land here). A pesky defender who consistently gets under your skin and picks at you, even though you know it's coming. You can't look away for a second. Otherwise, you've got a pitch clock violation, an HBP, and then a SB. All of a sudden, Cabby is on second, and you're scratching your head as to what happened.
STEAMER sees a drop off in 2024. I see a pick up, at least in the amount of times Cabby annoys the opposition, and I think that continues to make him an asset to the Mariners.