AL-Only Addiction: Why Robinson Cano Is A Better Top Overall Selection Than Mike Trout

by David Morris Jr.

Everywhere you look this offseason, or is it preseason?  I really don’t know what date it switches over… Anyway, Mike Trout is the overwhelming number one player on practically all early projections.  While his projected stats certainly warrant such a draft pick, or in the case of auction drafts, the highest bid, I’d like to explore another, more reliable, option for the AL Only manager in 2013.

Enter, Robinson Cano.  Now I know, not really going down the draft board very far, but when Trout is almost unanimously the number one pick you’d better have a strong argument when throwing out as an alternative.  I have just that, and a couple of cents to spare.

Before we get going, this article, as with most of my articles, is going to focus on AL Only Auction drafts.  If you have the first overall pick, I’d still grab Cano over Trout for reasons that apply to both snake and auction drafts and I’ll touch on those later, but this first argument won’t really apply to snake drafters.

What happens in 97% of all auction drafts when the number one rated player is nominated for bidding?  A couple owners will without question go nuts and drastically overpay to make sure “their” guy is on their roster.  Taking a look back at 2012 preseason auction values on ESPN for the number 1 player (Miguel Cabrera), owners on average spent $5.80 more than the recommended price.  That was Cabrera coming off a great season, but it wasn’t a “Mike Trout” season.  To quote Bachman Turner Overdrive – You ain’t seen nothing yet. 

As I mentioned in the open, if Trout ends up hitting all his projected stats (RotoChamp – 118R, 36HR, 77RBI, 50SB, .306BA) he’ll without question outperform Cano in 2013.  But between the inflated price detailed above, as well as the lack of track record with Trout, are you willing to invest nearly a fifth of your budget on a player born in 1991?

That’s all on Trout for now, (I can’t even write a Robinson Cano article without spending two paragraphs on Mike Trout.  Owners are going to go crazy come draft time next year.)  Let’s talk Cano.

Since 2007 Cano has played in 160, 159, 161, 160, 159 and 161 games for the New York Yankees.  Since 2009 Cano has never hit below .300 and has had 25 or more home runs in each of those seasons.  He also surpassed 100 runs from 2009 to 2012 and eclipsed 100 RBIs in two of those seasons.  You’re right, he doesn’t steal bases, but I’ve got news for you, it doesn’t matter.

Now without getting into a whole draft strategy discussion (that’s coming later), let me just say, yes five category players are great targets in your fantasy auctions.  However, not every roster spot/player acquired in an auction, is created equally.  You can find steals later in the draft filling out your cheaper MI and 4th or 5th OF spots.  Don’t punt it completely until the $1-3 players; just don’t limit yourself early on, thinking because a player costs a lot, he must contribute across the board.  Let’s be honest with ourselves also; while Cano will steal possibly 3 bags all season, he will rank towards the top of the league in Runs, RBIs and BA, and provides enough pop to hang with the big boys, while demolishing everyone else eligible at 2B in the power department.

Cano is without question the number one 2B in the draft pool, with Dustin Pedroia coming in second according to my projections.  When drafting it’s very important to pay attention to tiers of players at a certain position ending, and according to my projections tier 1 for 2B in AL Only formats starts and ends with Cano.  RotoChamp’s draft software has a great feature built in called Strength Index.  Basically this index shows how high above (or below) league average a certain player is compared to every other player at his position.  Using this index, Cano receives a score of 6.9 in 10 team AL Only leagues.  Compare this to the next three 2B eligible players, Pedroia (2.6), Zobrist (2.3), probably using him at SS, and Kinsler (2.0) and it’s clear Cano is not only number one at 2B, it’s not even close.

Don’t trust the strength index?  Using Tom Tango’s – Forecasters Challenge equation, Cano’s projected 2013 line spits out a score of 139.98, compared to Pedroia’s 111.56.  I wouldn’t lie to you.

Lastly in regards to the Strength Index, only six 2B (five if you remove Zobrist) have a positive ranking for the 2013 AL Season.  This compared to the 30 OF eligible players who have a positive ranking for 2013.  While you have to roster 5 outfielders in a typical league, the advantage gained in having the very best 2B can’t be argued.

Because this article wouldn’t be complete without another Mike Trout reference, let’s go back and use that Tango equation I mentioned above, but this time let’s put Trout’s projected line at  115R, 25HR, 75RBI, 45SB and a .294BA.  All of a sudden his score changes from 172.35 (based on RotoChamp Projection above) to 147.68.  Again, still a great line, but based on the inflated cost to acquire his services it will certainly be a loss at the end of the season.  It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve witnessed a young outfielder breakout, especially in the power department, only to see the power dry up some the following year (looking at you Jacoby Ellsbury)

The old saying goes, you can’t win your league in the first round (or in the case of an auction, with your big ticket player) but you certainly can lose it.  If you’re inclined to spend big on a player in 2013, wouldn’t you rather spend on the player nearly three times better at his respective position with a huge track record of success?  I would.

You can read more from David at his website or by following him on Twitter @dmojr


  1. Bryan Curley says:

    First, great article. I love the distinction of Trout vs. Cano’s value in auction drafts versus snake drafts, and I tend to agree that Trout will go for way more than you should commit to any one player. In AL-only snake drafts though I’m still going with Trout. The two will probably have similar HR and BA with Trout scoring maybe 15-20 more R and stealing 40+ more bases while Cano will likely tally 20-25 more RBI. In my mind that means the R and RBI almost cancel out, and then you’re left with all those steals.

    And I sort of like second base in the AL. Cano is clearly the number one, but Pedroia, Kinsler, Kipnis, Altuve, Kendrick, Bonifacio plus whoever else emerges is a pretty good group. It might not sound awesome, but outfield drops off drastically as well. In a 10-team AL-only league there need to be between 30 and 50 OF started depending on the league. Last year Viciedo, Brantley, and Saunders ranked top-30 by wOBA (a stat I like as an “in summation” for fantasy)

    Anyway my points were this: 1) Great article, 2) I think it’s a great debate as I wouldn’t have considered Cano for top honors until now, and 3) I’d probably go with Trout still, but you got me thinking.

  2. Dave says:

    Thanks Bryan. Your points are the main reasons I really enjoyed writing this article. I wanted to make my case for Cano, but at the same time didn’t want to get into a complete auction strategy post at the same time.

    Like I said, even if Trout hit’s those “reduced” projections above, he’s still more valuable according to the Tango equation. I just always look at the line between valuable (according to final stat lines) and value (Based on how much it cost to acquire him and what other roster spots took a hit)

    In a 10 team AL Only, i know I can build a team with enough SB’s (Targeting 139 in a 10 teamer) with my OF, epecially the last couple of spots, as well as my MI spot. Hosmer is also a target player for me this year assuming his shoulder heels up. 15 SB’s from either my 1B or CI helps make up the difference with Cano’s lack of SB’s as my big ticket player.

    I appreciate the comment and feedback, and like you said, it’s more just to get you thinking. I won’t be buying Trout this year, but if Cano’s price stays in check, I will roster him as often as possible.

  3. Rotoprofessor says:

    Dave, where does Miguel Cabrera fit into this discussion?

    There are three top 3B in Cabrera, Beltre and Longoria,, but then a massive dropff to the Lawrie’s and Moustakas’…

  4. Dave says:

    For AL Only play, I have Cabrera as my 4th overall player (Trout, Cano, Verlander Cabrera)

    As I detailed in the post I have reasons why I’d take Cano over Trout, even though I have Trout ranked higher.

    The drop off between Cabrera and Longoria (My 2nd ranked 3B) is nearly as steep as the drop off between Cano and Pedroia, but still not quite as drastic.

    My hope is Longoria’s price at auction will be about what his converted auction dollar figure is. I think there’s a good chance of this due to his injury history, presenting a chance to purchase a top 3B at a decent price. If you roster Longoria, it’s very important your CI player is a decent 3B.

    Assuming I spend big on Cano, I won’t be spending big at 3B in an AL Only league however. I will then target Seager at 3B, keeping an eye on Middlebrooks also when he’s nominated, but I’d want him at a discounted price as his BB/K profile worries me.

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