Hitting coach explains ‘unique skill set’ Mariners’ José Caballero has at plate

May 24, 2023, 11:54 AM

Seattle Mariners José Caballero...

José Caballero hits a sacrifice fly against the Atlanta Braves on May 20, 2023. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Most of the new position players for the Seattle Mariners this season have struggled early on for the 24-24 team, but there is a notable exception.

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José Caballero has stood out for a number of reasons since he was called up to the big leagues as a little-known prospect from Triple-A last month.

For starters, he’s established himself as Seattle’s most consistently productive option at second base since being promoted. He’s also jumped out as a key addition who came from within the organization rather than as an offseason acquisition. And then of course there’s the way that he’s able to get under opponents’ skin, filling that important but hard to quantify “professional nuisance” role that is never a bad thing for a baseball team to have.

One of the Mariners’ hitting coaches, Jarret DeHart, has been personally impressed by the 26-year-old rookie, as he shared this week when he joined The Dugout, which airs from noon to 2 p.m. each Tuesday during Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy.

“Cabby has been outstanding so far since he’s been up here, and even coming through the minor leagues, Cabby has always been really impressive to me,” DeHart said.

Entering Wednesday, Caballero owns a .276/.371/.431 slash line for an .802 OPS in 24 MLB games, and he’s been especially good in May, posting a slash of .342/.447/.553 slash for a .999 OPS in 15 games this month.

DeHart explained what it is about Caballero that has led to his early success against MLB pitching.

“His swing decisions are outstanding, his bat-to-ball skill is as good as anyone we have, and the thing that’s kind of grown over the years is his ability to impact the baseball, his power capability,” DeHart said. “He’s a strong dude – he’s not a big guy but he’s very strong. The thing that I appreciate the most about Cabby is that he has the ability to flip the switch with two strikes better than anyone I’ve ever been around, frankly.”

Caballero’s numbers are boosted by his two home runs that came in back-to-back plate appearances this week – the first came in his last trip to the plate Sunday in Atlanta, and he followed up with a shot into the Mariners’ bullpen at T-Mobile Park in his first at-bat Monday against Oakland. Flashing that power adds another element to what pitchers need to worry about when facing him.

“Pre-two strikes, he’s clearly committed to trying to catch the ball out front because that’s where he can do his damage,” DeHart said. “He may wave at a slider before two strikes… but then once he gets to two strikes, he really leverages his ability to make contact. He backs the ball up, he kind of eliminates the stride, uses his hands. It makes for a very, very competitive at-bat because you have the threat for damage early in the count or ahead in the count, and then once he gets to two strikes he can really, really battle, make the pitcher work. So it’s a really unique skill set.”

You can hear DeHart’s full conversation with Bump and Stacy, which includes insight on several other Mariners hitters, in the first segment of the podcast below.

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José Caballero keeps playing like he’s Mariners’ answer at 2B
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