Cabrera vs. Gray: Eastern Future in Action

Put it in a neon sign. The future of the NL East will take center stage Wednesday night in Miami.

Edward Cabera, the 30th best prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline, will make his debut tonight at loanDepot park. Plus, the Nationals will go with the 54th-best prospect, Josiah Gray, as their starting pitcher in the same game.

A year after sneaking into the postseason, the Marlins have struggled to find the winning rhythm again and have brought up Cabrera as another piece of their current rebuilding process around their youngsters.

The Nationals also took a step toward more emphasis on young talent during the trade season, when they acquired Gray, along with Keibert Ruiz (also a Top 100 member) and two other promises in the trade with the Dodgers for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner.

Gray enters the game as the more experienced of the two with six major league starts in his history since making his debut for Los Angeles on July 20.

Gray went straight into Washington’s rotation after the trade and immediately looked like an impact starter, despite being just 23 years old. The tall right-hander has a 2.86 ERA with 22 strikeouts and just five walks in four starts (22 innings) with the Nationals. Notably, the seven earned runs he has allowed have come via home runs. Gray has a fastball that has averaged 94.6 miles per hour in the majors and uses basically half the time. His curve, under 85 mph, is his best pitching for making opponents fan the breeze, getting missed swings 56.1% of the time he throws it. He also has a slider near 85 mph and an occasional throwing switch, but 30 of his 35 strikeouts in the majors have been completed on the fastball or the curve.

“It’s a pleasure to have him here with us,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said after Gray’s jewel last Wednesday. “And what he wants is to keep getting better and better.”

Cabrera is the harder thrower of the two, with a fastball that can hit 100 mph and typically travels 93-97 mph with a lot of movement. His slider has also received very good grades and Cabrera has done enough work with the gear change that the pitching has a lot of potential by now. Cabrera faced shoulder problems in 2020 that prevented him from making his debut last season. And a nerve inflammation in his right bicep caused a slow start in 2021. But in recent weeks, he had been looking dominant with 40 strikeouts in his last four starts (20.2 innings) with Triple-A Jacksonville. He had at least 86 pitches in each of those games, an indication that he is ready to go far on Wednesday if the game allows.

“We welcome his arsenal,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly told reporters in June. “We saw it in training last year. He’s got some electrifying pitches. This boy is really going to be good. “

Seeing two stellar pitching prospects meet in the majors is not unprecedented. The Royals’ Brady Singer and Daniel Lynch have met Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal multiple times since the four arrived in the Big Top in 2020. And Wednesday’s game will mark the second time since 2004 that a prospect who was in The Top 100 when he started the season will debut facing another Top 100 prospect (the first time was when James Paxton began his major league career against Chris Archer on September 7, 2013). The point is, this kind of pitching match with such potential is a very rare thing. At least for now. The Nationals and Marlins plan to keep Gray and Cabrera on their long-term rotations.

To put on the seat belt. This could be just the beginning.