| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Tigers GM Al Avila explains manager search, offseason expectations
Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila speaks with reporters Friday, October 2, 2020, following his team’s season to share offseason expectations.
LAKELAND, Fla. — Detroit Tigers outfield prospect Daniel Cabrera knows what a World Series ring looks like: diamonds, rubies, sapphires and a lot of pride. The No. 62 overall pick in the 2020 draft from LSU spent his summer training with former MLB middle infielder Ryan Theriot at Traction Sports Performance in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Theriot, nicknamed the “hit doctor,” isn’t afraid to show off his bling. He won the 2011 World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals. He secured another title in 2012 for the San Francisco Giants.
“I need to get one,” Cabrera, 22, said Friday. “I couldn’t think of a better place than Detroit to get my first one.”
For subscribers: Detroit Tigers’ top prospects in instructional league: What we saw
Cabrera won’t be in the majors on a full-time basis until 2022 at the earliest. Still, his arrival to pro ball was delayed when the minor-league season was nixed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
First- and second-round picks Spencer Torkelson and Dillon Dingler were in the 60-player pool for July’s summer camp and went to the alternate training site in Toledo for August and September. However, Cabrera was not invited. He couldn’t do much, other than checking in with the organization via Zoom video chats and following a personal workout plan.
Cabrera, the team’s No. 11 prospect, went to see Theriot, hoping to make the most of his extended offseason. He returned to live games Wednesday in an instructional league clash with the Toronto Blue Jays.
“Training and being on the field is a little different,” Cabrera said. “It felt like it’s been forever, but it felt really good. I was taking a little bit of rust off. I mean, I haven’t faced pitching since March, so that’s kind of the big adjustment. But seeing fly balls, throwing and hitting in the cage, I feel good. The game action is a little rusty. Getting back feels good.”
If Cabrera wasn’t repeating his swing pattern with Theriot this summer, he was in the weight room with his trainer and former teammate, Clay Moffitt, in Baton Rouge. Moffitt’s father, Tommy, is LSU’s director of strength and conditioning.
Cabrera packed on about 15 pounds — now up to 205 — while getting faster, stronger and smarter. He arrived for the instructional league in early October and has played in both games. In 140 college games, he hit .305 with 22 homers and 116 RBIs.
“He’s an advanced hitter, hard-nosed guy, smart guy,” Tigers vice president of player development Dave Littlefield said Monday. “We’ve been very impressed with Daniel Cabrera here in a short time.”
He has learned quite a bit in his short-term stay at Tiger Town in Lakeland, Florida.
Cabrera is humbled by his shortcomings as he learns the intricacies of being a professional player. As successful as LSU’s program has been, the talent level doesn’t compare to what he is now facing.
“You’re not just going to walk in and be good,” Cabrera said. “It’s a day-by-day process. I hadn’t faced pitching since March, since the (college) baseball season. You want to push everybody. You get to meet some of the guys you hope to play with in Detroit in a few years. You build those relationships with the coaching staff, with the trainers and strength coaches and the guys. It’s been awesome.”
Whenever Cabrera gets frustrated or wants to chat, he seeks Theriot’s name on his phone for a call or text message. He trusts the “hit doctor,” even though the 40-year-old only crushed 17 home runs in his eight-year career from 2005-12.
Yet Theriot recorded at least a .270 batting average in six of his eight seasons.
“He didn’t hit many homers, and we mess with him about that,” Cabrera said. “But he always found a way to get hits, and he always had a good average. He just knows how to find the barrel on the ball and somehow get on base.”
More often than not, Theriot reminds Cabrera of his most prized possessions: World Series rings.
“I don’t play this game just to be an average Joe,” Cabrera said. “I don’t want to just make it to the bigs. I want to be an impact player. I want to win World Series, hopefully, MVPs and have my name in Cooperstown. That’s why I play.”