First Round Analysis: Robinson Cano vs. Troy Tulowitki: The Answer May Surprise You

We’ve already discussed Robinson Cano and his viability as a first round draft pick (you can read the article by clicking here).  That’s no longer in question in my mind as my projections and rankings start to become crystal clear.  What is not so obvious, however, is exactly how highly he should be drafted or, more specifically, should he be the first middle infielder to be selected in 2012 fantasy drafts?  In other words, who is a better selection, Cano or Troy Tulowitzki.

I know the popular belief is Tulowitzki, who many see as among the top picks in baseball heading into the season.  However, when you break things down, it may not be quite that simple.  As the old adage goes, you can’t win your league in the first round but you very well could lose it.  So, before we jump to conclusions, let’s take a look at who the better selection is.

Robinson Cano – Second Baseman – New York Yankees
The Case For Him – As we talked about when discussing him as a potential first round target, the consistency and opportunity is nearly second to none.  When you select Cano you almost know exactly what you are going to get.  Just look at his numbers over the past three seasons:

  • 2009 – .320, 25 HR, 85 RBI, 103 R, 5 SB
  • 2010 – .319, 29 HR, 109 RBI, 103 R, 3 SB
  • 2011 – .302, 28 HR, 118 RBI, 104 R, 8 SB

In other words, you can almost lock him in for .310/25/110/100 with the potential for even more than that.  He has settled into the middle of one of the deepest batting orders in the game.  Would it surprise anyone if he hits cleanup for the bulk of the year, meaning ample opportunities to both drive in and score runs?

There are few players who have the floor of Cano and the ceiling is so much more.  While he is not going to produce like Albert Pujols or Jose Bautista, he is going to continue to be one of the best hitters in the game.  He also is going to play every day, as he has played in at least 159 games (597 AB or more) every season since 2007.

The Case Against Him – He doesn’t run much?  That’s about the only thing you can say about the 29-year old, isn’t it?

Troy Tulowitzki – Shortstop – Colorado Rockies
The case for him – He has become the premier shortstop in the game, giving you an advantage over the rest of the field.  Last season he hit .302 with 30 HR, 105 RBI and 81 R.  It’s the third consecutive season that he has driven in at least 92 runs and hit at least .297 or better.

He also has shown the potential to steal bases, having swiped as many as 20 in a season.  If he can regain that form, he really is the total package, isn’t he?  Of course, it is no guarantee as he has only done that once and he stole 11 bases in ’10 and 9 in ’11.  That’s not much of an advantage over Cano.

However, his value doesn’t come from his speed (though it would be nice).  Just look how he compares in the power departments against other shortstops:

  • Home Runs – Only four shortstops hit over 20 HR in ’11 and the only other person with more than 25 was J.J. Hardy (who also hit 30)
  • RBI – Only four shortstops had at least 80 RBI in ’11, with the second best being Asdrubal Cabrera with 92

The case against him – First of all the statistical problem, as only twice in his career has he surpassed 100 runs scored.  While bringing Michael Cuddyer in should help him in that regard, he is also far from a lock to reach that mark.  He doesn’t have the same type of talent following him in the lineup that Cano has.

The other problem is much more glaring, and that is the injury concern.  Tulowitzki has played in over 150 games just twice in his career and twice has been held to 122 games or less.  In the past four seasons the most games he’s played in is 151.  The fact that it is almost a given that he misses time is a major knock against him.

Conclusion
When you start looking at these two players there is a lot to like about both of them.  Yes, Tulowitzki may have a little bit of an advantage in the power department, though it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cano reach into the low 30s as well.  Cano likely has the advantage in the average, run and RBI departments, though those again should be extremely similar.  Could Tulowitzki steal a few more bases?  Sure, but it isn’t going to be enough.

The numbers are going to be close and their ceilings are similar, but what distinguishes the two for me is the floor.  We basically know what Cano is going to do and those numbers are going to be special.  With Tulowitzki, would it be a major surprise to see him miss a bulk of time and severely underperform?

That fact is more than enough for me.  I may be in the minority, but if I am left with a decision between the two I am going to be selecting Cano every time.

What about you?  Which player would you select for 2012?  Why?

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Make sure to check out our other 2012 first round analysis:

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2012 Projection: Will Adam Jones Finally Fully Emerge As An All-Star Outfielder?

11 comments

  1. TY says:

    So if you’re taking CANO over Tulo then where are you taking Cano? 5th? 6th overall?

    I like both, but I’d have to take a SS over a 2B. Tough choice though, and good points made.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Yea, somewhere in the 5-7 range, depending on a few things. One of the other reasons is the SS that I think I can get on the wrap in the second round.

  2. yummy says:

    Personally I would take Tulo and then hope to pick up Pedroia or Uggla in rounds 2 or 3.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I don’t think there is any chance that Pedroia would be there on the wrap if you were to select Tulo. On the other side, though, I think there’s a good chance you can get someone like Reyes or Hanley at the end of the second round or early third to fill the hole at shortstop.

      • Art Vandelay says:

        phewww you think hanley and reyes might come back but pedroia wont?

        By draft time in the spring, call me crazy, Hanley will barely make it outta the first round if that, and Reyes will be gone by pick 14. No way those guys make it back. Pedroia, as good as he is, flys under the radar, people dont buy into him, they’d rather take Hanleys potential at SS. I know Hanleys got a bad tude and had the worst year ever, but no way he’s slipping deep into the second round.

        I guess it depends who you play with but not with the guys I play with….

  3. Glenn says:

    One of my leagues is a Yahoo keeper league – I traded David Price and Kelly Johnson for Cano last mid season. While Price has great potential, I already have Doc, CJ Wilson, Strasburg, Fister and D. Holland (and N. Feliz). I think I did all right. I’ll have to work on getting a decent SS though… Still I agree re Tulo’s floor and generally don’t ike drafting injury riddled players no matter how good they are (see Nelson Cruz as that poster child – had him in anoather league last year – very frustrating…)

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I think you didn’t great with this trade, actually. Whenever you can get a 1st round talent without giving up another one, you are a winner in my book.

  4. big o says:

    Eric :

    so we’re in agreement then ?
    if tulo can get the same number of AB’s as
    cano , then tulo will out-score him (fantasy-wise) every time ??

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      I am not sure I would say every time, as I do think Cano is a little bit underrated given what he’s done the past few years and the lineup he plays in. It’s more than 50% of the time, though. Maybe 60/40, 65/35 type range, but the thing is do you want to gamble that Tulo is actually going to stay healthy?

      • Andrew Stevens says:

        I agree that Cano’s consistent health and production makes him a bit more desirable. With my early picks I want to be confident in the stats that I’m drafting. During the first few rounds a player’s floor is probably more important to me than his potential. There’s plenty of time to gamble on potential in the later rounds.

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