Daniel Cabrera tries to not let the pressure get to him.
For the most part, he’s successful.
He brushes off questions about his status, instead praising his new LSU teammates for welcoming him and the coaches for preparing him.
But he can’t deny the expectations are there.
The comparisons to Alex Bregman or Aaron Nola, or other players who came to LSU as high-profile freshmen, are all around him.
It’s inevitable. It was bound to happen as soon as Cabrera spurned what might have been a lucrative offer to play pro baseball right out of high school, something Cabrera could've done if he had chose.
Instead, he decided on LSU, to potentially become the next face of this storied college baseball program.
“It’s not as bad as you think,” Cabrera said. “There’s a lot of veteran guys that have been there and done that and they help you out through it. You’ve got Antoine (Duplantis). You’ve got Zach Watson, who did it last year and came out of nowhere and blew it up.
“They really helped me and talked with me and helped me through it so far.”
Cabrera was the highest-ranked LSU signee who opted to come to college after right-hander Nate Pearson (first round), right-hander Blayne Enlow (third round), center fielder Jacob Pearson (third round) and third baseman Andrew Bechtold (fifth round) all signed pro contracts.
Cabrera fell to the 26th round of the MLB draft last spring where he was selected by the San Diego Padres — not particularly high for a player who entered the draft as No. 55 on MLB.com’s list of Top 200 prospects.
But LSU coach Paul Mainieri said at the time Cabrera likely would’ve gone higher if he had not previously set his minimum signing bonus requirement as high as he did.
Before he was selected, Cabrera re-affirmed his intent to come to LSU.
“Blessed to say I'm 100% a tiger and can't wait to play at the box with the best fans in the country! #geauxtigers,” he tweeted.
Mainieri strayed away from comparing Cabrera to past LSU phenoms who chose college.
Sure, Bregman might have thrived after the Boston Red Sox took him in the 29th round of the 2012 draft.
That doesn’t mean the same can be expected of Cabrera.
Mainieri plans to start him in left field and hit him sixth in the lineup when the Tigers open the season against Notre Dame next week.
Mainieri cautions against expecting everything to click right away for the freshman, who attended John Curtis for three seasons and finished last year at Parkview Baptist.
But so far, Cabrera is doing everything he needs to do.
“The way he carries himself, he doesn’t seem in awe of anything,” Mainieri said. “He doesn’t seem overmatched mentally. I know he’s not overmatched physically because I watched him in the fall work against good pitchers and be able to handle them. I just have a lot of confidence Daniel is going to be able to handle it and he won’t be overwhelmed by it all.
“He just has that something about him.”
From a young age, there was something different about Cabrera on a baseball field.
Jeff Curtis, Cabrera’s former coach at John Curtis, has known Cabrera for most of his life.
Curtis said Cabrera always stood out among his age group. And he has faced high expectations before, having come into John Curtis as a freshman amid plenty of buzz.
As a junior, he made it through the first two cuts of the USA under-18 national team. Last summer, Baseball America listed him as the No. 2 pro prospect in the Cal Ripken summer league.
“At a real early age we recognized that God blessed him to be a very talented athlete,” Curtis said. “You could just tell. He likes to compete and had a love of the game.
“With baseball, that was developed early on with his hand-eye coordination and the way he could throw the ball. He was just different than other kids his age.”
Cabrera will be a two-way player this season, leaving the outfield for the mound on occasion.
With just four other left-handed pitchers on the roster (three junior-college transfers and one other freshman), Cabrera is in LSU’s plans for bullpen work.
But it’s unlikely he remains a pitcher for long.
Mainieri said Cabrera's future is at the plate. Jeff Curtis and LSU hitting coach Sean Ochinko agreed.
“He’s just got one of those real pretty, left-handed strokes,” Ochinko said. “Real easy, good bad speed; can hit the ball to all fields; drives the ball to left-center, right center; has power. His swing and everything comes so natural to him, and he has such good at-bats.”
LSU Outfield Preview
2 Daniel Cabrera, Fr., L/L, No statistics
24 Beau Jordan, Sr., R/R, .268/.351/.381
9 Zach Watson, So., R/R, .317/.376/.507
8 Antoine Duplantis, Jr., L/L, .316/.358/.400
23 Nick Webre, Fr., L/R, No statistics
Top bat: All three of LSU’s starting outfielders will be top-of-the-order bats, but Watson is the most dynamic of the bunch, hitting for both average and power with speed to burn.
Top glove: LSU will once again boast top-end athleticism across its outfield. Watson headlines an impressive group. He covers a huge amount of territory and has a solid arm.
Final thoughts: This should be a strength of LSU’s 2018 team. It is not difficult to conceive a world in which Watson and Duplantis both earn All-American honors at the end of the year, with Cabrera landing on a freshman All-American team. Beau Jordan provides excellent depth.