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Entries in Robinson Cano (22)

Monday
Apr012013

Andrew Miller owns Robinson Cano

Andrew Miller and Bill ChuckIt's rare to find as good a batter as Robinson Cano befuddled by a pitcher, but in baseball parlance Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller owns Robby.

The Yankee lineup right now may be the worst in the AL East, but when you have Cano in the lineup, anything positive can happen.

Except when Miller is on the mound.

In the bottom of the 7th inning of Opening Day in the Bronx, amidst a sea of mediocrity, the Red Sox held a 5-2 lead. Inexplicably, Francisco Cervelli walked to lead off the inning. To the dismay of new Sox manager John Farrell,  Brett Gardner also walked, sending Cervelli to second and bringing the tying run to the plate.

After pitching coach Juan Nieves visited the mound, Eduardo Nunez was called out on strikes.

Up steps Cano, the only legitimate hitting threat in the Yankee lineup.

  • Miller starts him with an 85 mph slider that breaks far outside and Cano looks helpless as he swings and misses.
  • Cano then swings and misses on a four-seam fastball, again on the outside of the plate.
  • On the third pitch, Miller doesn't get it where he wants and leaves the fastball on the inside of the plate, Cano gets in front of it and rips it foul.
  • After a discussion with his catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Miller throws the fastball down and in the dirt, away from Cano. The next pitch is again away from Cano and the strike zone. Then on the 2-2, Miller powers it one more time and gets the swing-and-miss strikeout.

Cano, in his career, is now 1-for-10 with one single, one walk, and five strikeouts.

Over the last five seasons, including Opening Day 2013

  • Cano has seen 34 pitches from Miller, 20 fastballs, 14 sliders.
  • There have been 21 strikes. 
  • Cano has swung at 15 and missed four.
  • He's put four in play and fouled off seven.
  • There have been 14 pitches in the zone with Cano chasing six with six strikes called.
  • His only hit off of Miller came last season on a soft line drive to center that Cano reached for and was lucky to make contact with. It was the only line drive that Cano has managed off Miller in the last five years.

Cano has hit James Shields at a .413 pace going 31-for-75 and he's 12-for-25 (.480) against Clay Buchholz.

If they were smart, they would have an ownership discussion with Miller.

Tuesday
Mar122013

Cano's Comps: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Whether he re-signs with the Yankees or takes his talents elsewhere following the 2013 season, Robinson Cano is about to become an absurdly wealthy man. Cano's blend of contact, power and durability, coupled with new TV money swelling owners' pockets, could make him the game's highest paid player this winter.

Is Cano, 30, a good bet to keep producing as he ages? 

To explore that question, I found some players comparable to Cano using Baseball-Reference's Play Index tool and charted their career paths in their thirties. I considered Expansion-Era second basemen who had at least a 110 OPS+, a .280 average and 50+ home runs during their twenties. While you can quibble with those cutoffs, they give us a sample of keystone players who produced at the plate with both contact and power (Cano has a career 123 OPS+ to this point, with a .308 average and 177 homers).

The results are mostly positive, but Cano's comps also include a pair of players who declined dramatically and one active guy who's still great -- when he's capable of taking the field.

Here's the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to Cano's possible post-twenties career path.

The Good

Lou Whitaker 

  • During his 20s: 5,394 PA, 110 OPS+, 37.3 WAR
  • During his 30s: 4,573 PA, 125 OPS+, 34.1 WAR

Sweet Lou was the rare player who was every bit as productive in his thirties as in his twenties. He remained a power threat deep into his thirties, actually hitting far more homers after age 29 (151) than before (93). He also stuck at second base for the duration of his 19-year career with the Tigers, saving a collective 13 runs compared to an average second baseman after age 30, according to Baseball-Reference. Whitaker represents the best-case scenario for Cano: he raked, remained relatively healthy and retained his range.

Ryne Sandberg 

  • During his 20s: 5,385 PA, 112 OPS+, 36 WAR
  • During his 30s: 3,897 PA, 118 OPS+, 28.9 WAR

Ryno emerged as a huge power threat at second base, leading the league with 40 home runs during his age 30 season and finishing with the career home run record among players at the keystone (since broken by Jeff Kent). Sandberg racked up a ton of value from age 30 to 33 (135 OPS+, 24.5 WAR), then got off to a poor start in 1994 and retired. He sat out his age 35 season but returned to the Cubs the following year, producing modestly through age 37.

Roberto Alomar 

  • During his 20s: 6,232 PA, 119 OPS+, 40.9 WAR
  • During his 30s: 4,168 PA, 112 OPS+, 22 WAR

Alomar hit for average during his early Padres years, but he became an offensive dynamo during his mid-twenties as he combined excellent contact skills, a good eye and ample power, all while collecting a cabinet full of Gold Gloves.  He remained a major threat at the dish through age 33, posting a career-best 150 OPS+ and hitting 20 homers during his last year in Cleveland, but his power plummeted upon a trade to the Mets that winter (90 OPS+, 11 HR). He was done as a regular after another sub-par season at age 35 (80 OPS+) and retired after his age 36 season.

Chase Utley 

  • During his 20s: 3,126 PA, 128 OPS+, 33 WAR
  • During his 30s: 2,014 PA, 123 OPS+, 20.3 WAR

Utley was the gold standard among second baseman prior to his injury issues and Cano's ascension as an all-around offensive threat. Now, we're not really sure what to expect. Utley is still darned good when he's on the field, but his knees are held together with Super Glue, Big League Chew and platelet-rich plasma injections from the Philadelphia Phanatic. He could be an MVP candidate in 2013, or he could play 50 games. I placed Utley in the "good" here, but would the Yankees really be pleased if they inked Cano to a megadeal and he provided intermittent, injury-plagued excellence? Thankfully, Cano has been just about the most durable player in the game to this point. But predicting durability can be a fool's errand -- Utley averaged about 675 plate appearances as a full-time player from age 26 to 29.

The Bad

Chuck Knoblauch 

  • During his 20s: 5,279 PA, 112 OPS+, 38.9 WAR
  • During his 30s: 2,108 PA, 91 OPS+, 3.1 WAR

Knoblauch batted nearly .300 during before his 30th birthday, and he ramped up his power production as he reached his mid-to-late twenties (he belted 50 homers and slugged .453 from age 26-29, compared to 10 homers and a .373 slugging percentage from age 22-25). After that, the wheels came off. Knoblauch had a good age 30 season at the plate (118 OPS+), but he fell apart in the field as he struggled to make even the most routine throws to first base. Baseball-Reference estimates that he was 15 runs worse than an average defensive second baseman that year. He was even worse the at age 31 (-10 runs in just a half season's worth of games), and he was a full-time left fielder/DH by age 32. After one wretched season in Kansas City, Knoblauch retiredly

The Ugly

Jose Vidro 

  • During his 20s: 3,895 PA, 113 OPS+, 15.5 WAR
  • During his 30s: 1,813 PA, 96 OPS+, -0.6 WAR

Vidro never reached the heights that Cano has during his career, but his post-20s playing record represents every fear talent evaluators have about second baseman declining sharply coming true. Vidro routinely hit double-digit homers and produced scads of contact, batting .304 with 101 homers through age 29, yet he never topped seven homers and hit a hollow .284 in his 30s. Knee, ankle and hamstring injuries made him a statue at second, and he mostly DHed after being traded to Seattle before his age 32 season. Suffice it to say, his bat didn't play at the position. Vidro was done at age 33.

FYI:

I excluded Alfonso Soriano because he was moved off the position at 30 and sent to Wrigley's outfield.

Wednesday
Feb202013

Top 16 Fantasy Baseball Second Basemen

Second base is a position bred from defensive deficiency. If you look at every starting second baseman in the majors, odds are they came up through the minors as a shortstop. Since second basemen require less defensive ability than its counterpart (shortstop), more offense is expected.

The top 16 Second Basemen

  1. Robinson Cano, NYY
  2. Dustin Pedroia, BOS
  3. Aaron Hill, ARI
  4. Ian Kinsler, TEX
  5. Brandon Phillips, CIN
  6. Ben Zobrist, TB
  7. Jason Kipnis, CLE
  8. Jose Altuve, HOU
  9. Rickie Weeks, MIL
  10. Neil Walker, PIT
  11. Howard Kendrick, LAA
  12. Josh Rutledge, COL
  13. Danny Espinosa, WSH
  14. Kelly Johnson, TB
  15. Dustin Ackley, SEA
  16. Daniel Murphy, NYM

Honorable mention: Dan UgglaChase UtleyOmar InfanteLogan Forsythe

Additional Information:

  1. Cano has been the model of consistency the past four seasons posting an average stat line of 639 plate appearances, 104 R, 29 HRs, .314 AVG and 4 SBs.
  2. Last season, Pedroia was hampered by multiple injuries to his right thumb, which caused him to go on the DL. Before going on the DL he hit .266/.323/.400, but after he came off the DL he hit .318/.371/.508. If he can stay healthy he should have another great year.
  3. Hill maintained his 2011 second half surge with the Diamondbacks by posting a slash line of .302/.360/.522 in 2012. There appears to be no outliers in his 2012 totals to suggest a dramatic regression is coming except for his .317 BABIP, the highest it’s been since 2007. His batting average is sure to decline, but how much? When drafting Hill be prepared for a .250 batting average and be happy if he hits .285.
  4. The biggest concern about Kinsler is his home-road splits. During the past three seasons he has a .300 batting average at home compared to only .227 on the road. His road woes provide less hope he can bring his average back to the .280 range he showed in 2010. There’s going to be a drop-off in his run potential with Lance Berkman replacing Josh Hamilton.
  5. At the age of 31 the 20+ stolen bases and home runs are no longer there, but Phillips is a safe bet for 15/15 with solid numbers everywhere else. He’s currently being taken as the sixth second baseman (76th overall) at Mock Draft Central, which is about the right spot for him.
  6. Zobrist’s greatest value is his versatility, qualifying at shortstop, second base and outfield. Last season, not only did his stolen bases drop dramatically, but his stolen base success rate was only 61%; his days of 20 stolen bases are gone.
  7. Kipnis’ fantasy value last year relied heavily on his 31 stolen bases. If he only stole 20 bases, he would have been the tenth-rated second baseman instead of the third best. Most of his fantasy value came in the first half of the season; 79% of his home runs and 65% of his stolen bases came in the first half.
  8. When Altuve made his debut in 2011 pitchers took advantage of his lack of plate discipline, resulting in a 2.1% walk rate. However, in 2012 his walk rate increased to 6.3% along with his AVG, OBP and SLG. Despite his size he has the ability to barrel up baseballs and hit a lot of doubles. He’s going to lead off for the Astros again and should score 85+ runs with a .280+ batting average and 30+ stolen bases.
  9. 2012 was a tale of two seasons for Weeks. During the first half he put up a slash line of .199/.314/.343. After the all-star break he returned to being Rickie Weeks, with a slash line of .261/.343/.457. His injury history (only averaging 120 games the past seven seasons) makes him high risk, but if you can get him at the right price, you could have a monster on your hands.
  10. Walker enters the 2013 season at the magical age of 27, the start of his prime. Playing in PNC Park, the second worst ballpark for hitting home runs, suppresses his power potential. However, he is a great second-tier second baseman who’s extremely consistent and will bat .270 with 15 home runs, 5 stolen bases, 80 runs and RBI.
  11. Similar to Walker, Kendrick’s greatest asset is his consistency, which means the 18 home runs he posted in 2011 look to be a fluke. Instead, he should be good for 10 home runs with a .285 batting average 14 stolen bases with 70 runs and RBI.
  12. Rutledge leaped from Double-A to the major leagues last year, hitting .274/.306/.469 with 8 home runs and 7 SBs. There are two reasons why I like him: A) he plays in Coors, which added 20 points to his batting average. B) his swing, which is short and simple, will allow him to make consistent contact at home and on the road. He’ll provide small contributions with the power but he’ll provide a nice average with 15+ stolen bases.
  13. Espinosa loves to swing the bat and has a poor approach at the plate. Therefore, it’s no surprise he strikes out a lot; last year was he had the highest strikeout percentage in his career (28.7%). He tore his left rotator cuff at the beginning of September and has decided to play with the injury instead of getting surgery. I’m staying away from him in every league because I have no idea how much the torn rotator cuff will affect his performance.
  14. Johnson’s poor strike zone awareness (27.4% strikeout percentage) will be a road block to hitting .280+ again. Despite the low batting average, Johnson is perennial 15/15 candidate who looks to rebound with the Tampa Rays. Joe Maddon has said he plans on using Johnson in the outfield and infield, which will provide great positional flexibility.
  15. After a promising rookie year, Ackley suffered a sophomore slump, batting .226. He has an outstanding approach, which increases his value in OBP leagues. He has the ability to drive the ball to all fields; he has doubles power rather than 20+ home run power. His ranking is based on his tool set rather than his statistical output in the majors.
  16. In 2010 a MCL injury to Murphy’s right knee cost him the entire season. In 2011 a MCL injury to his left knee cut his 2011 season to a halt. In 2012 Murphy showed he was fully healthy, playing in 156 games. His greatest fantasy asset is his potential to hit for a high average (.300+). He’s ranked 16th because it’s possible he could hit second in the Mets lineup, in front of David Wright and Ike Davis. If he hits second he could score 90+ runs.

Overall Draft Strategy

After Robbie Cano, the next six players have a wide range of outcomes that will make fantasy owners think again before using a high draft pick on them. However, despite the risk at the top of the list, the position is very deep with players who could end the year as the fifth best second baseman. My strategy heading into drafts is I want my opponents to use high picks on the Pedorias and Kinslers and I’ll wait to snag a Walker, Altuve or Kendrick.