The Rays essentially have to rebuild their entire bullpen in 2011, so it makes sense that they targeted a reliever in the Rule 5 Draft. It also makes sense they’d try to steal said reliever from one of their rivals, taking Cesar Cabral from the Red Sox.
Cabral, 21, was the first A-ball player selected since the seventh pick in the Rule 5. A lefty specialist-in-training, he pitched well at both A-ball levels thanks to good command and advanced offspeed stuff.
Is that enough to push him into the bigs this year?
I’d call the chances of that “unlikely but possible.” Cabral is a rare three-pitch reliever, making extensive use of both his slider and changeup to go with surprising velocity. He certainly has major-league potential with that three-pitch mix and surprising command.
However, there’s little doubt that a reliever who pitched good-but-not-dominant in High-A isn’t going to make tremendous positive contributions in an AL East bullpen the following year. Cabral certainly could help in, say, late 2012 and beyond, but carrying him on the roster all year in 2011 could significantly hinder a Rays team with championship aspirations. It’s up to Tampa Bay’s front office if they want to risk that; this is essentially an average pick.