Rankings Review: Why Robinson Cano Is Not Currently A Top 5 Second Baseman

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Robinson Cano was recently ranked #7 on our updated second baseman rankings (click here to view).  It’s fair to want to see him ranked higher (and rankings in general are very subjective, so keep that in mind), given his name appeal and 2016 production, and to an extent his ranking shows the depth that has been created at the position.  For his part Cano’s ’17 has been solid across the board:

.282 (53-188), 10 HR, 34 RBI, 29 R, 0 SB

So why did he rank as low as he did?  Let’s take a look and get to the bottom of the decision:

 

Power
He has 10 HR thus far, putting him on a 30 HR pace (after he hit 39 HR in ’16).  However the inflation of his groundball rate brings back memories of his lack of power when he first arrived in Seattle:

  • 2014 – 52.6%
  • 2015 – 50.5%
  • 2016 – 45.9%
  • 2017 – 50.6%

That number has been steady all season long, and while it has come more at the expense of his line drive rate (something we’ll talk about shortly) it still impacts his power potential (his fly ball rate currently sits at 33.7%).  It’s easy to project a regression in his HR/FB, with his April mark (13.8%) likely being closer to the truth than his May (25.0%).

Throw in significantly more power on the road (7 HR) than at home (3 HR), with 2 HR coming in Philadelphia, and any concerns are justifiable.  He should provide some power moving forward, but would it be a surprise if he hits closer to 12-15 HR as opposed to another 20+?

 

Average
There are two major things to factor in, line drives and strikeouts.  As we mentioned earlier his line drive rate is down this season (15.7%).  That’s not far off from last year’s mark (18.0%), so it’s a trend that we can’t ignore.  He still hit .298 in ’16, though a lot of that came due to the power surgel.  With that pace expected to slow down, it will have a negative impact since his BABIP continues to drop (.276 in ’17).

In regards to strikeouts, his 11.2% strikeout rate is impressive.  He’s always made consistent contact, but it’s easy to imagine the mark rising a bit given his 35.1% O-Swing% and 8.2% SwStr%.  Neither of those marks are out of line with his career norm, but look for him to be more consistently in the 13-14% range (13.2% in April).

Any rise in strikeouts, when coupled with the line drive concerns, is going to mean a drop in his average.  He’s not going to hit .250, but he also doesn’t profile as a .300 hitter.  Think .260-.270, which is respectable but hardly elite.

 

Conclusion
He has no speed, so the concerns with a regression in his power and average (as well as the emergence of players like Jose Ramirez) do send him falling a bit for me.  That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t want to own him, nor would I argue if someone wanted to slot him among the Top 5.  There are concerns, though, and how he produces in the next few weeks will determine if his ranking stays suppressed or if he jumps back towards the top.

Sources – Fangraphs, CBS Sports

Make sure to check out all of our updated rankings:

Position
Posted
CatcherJune 1
First BaseJune 3
Second BaseJune 5
Third Base--
Shortstop--
Outfield--
Starting Pitcher--
Relief Pitcher--

6 comments

  1. Alex says:

    I like how this site will take a topic brought up in the comments and write a whole article about it. That is very unique and enjoyable to see, as usually such conversations often get ignored or one response.

    If Cano’s ranking is based on current statistics alone, he should be ahead of both Dozier and Carpenter as he has clearly outperformed them to this point. However, if the ranking is based on rest of season, then that would mean that not only does Dozier have to seriously start running (to have that leg up of a speed factor) and Carpenter will have to really, really start hitting the ball to get back to .300. Therefore, the ranking shows that it’s more likely those two succeed in bouncing back than the chances that Cano will be able to maintain most of what he’s doing now, correct?

    Like you said, rankings are subjective, which is good to keep in mind. I personally think Cano passes the other two by the next update, but it’s really out of our hands anyway.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Alex, first of all thanks for the support. I’ve always felt that if a topic gets that much attention or a player is questioned that much, it makes sense to dig deep into him and see what’s “really” going on.

      AS for the ranking, I would agree that there is a lot of “projection” in that it’s believed that Dozier/Carpenter will rebound while Cano could regress. Of course, a month from now that may not happen and things look significantly different. It’s why they play the games, right?

  2. Mike says:

    trade my cespedes for pollock?

  3. Bill Jones says:

    What is your take on any potential pitchers currently on DL to grab off waiver wire? Karns? Rodon?

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