For all the hype Robinson Cano had in 2010, when you compare his numbers from the past two years the only major change was in his RBI. As fantasy owners enter 2011 drooling over the numbers Cano posted just a year ago, they quickly forget that in 2009 he hit .320 with 25 HR, 83 RBI and 103 R. Clearly, that’s not a statement that is meant to temper expectations in the least. The fact of the matter is, with back-to-back exceptional seasons Cano has now captured the crown as the best fantasy second baseman in baseball.
Is that enough to justify using a first round selection on him? Let’s take a look:
2010 Campaign: He hit .319 with 29 HR, 109 RBI and 103 R, showing success against both righties and lefties. Against southpaws he hit .285 with 13 HR, 43 RBI and 40 R.
He was significantly better in the first half than the second. In the first three months, his lowest average was .333. In the second half, his highest average was .292. That’s not to say that he was bad, as they always say baseball is a game of averages.
What happened: The major change for Cano from 2009 to 2010 was where he hit in the lineup, which certainly helped lead to significantly more RBI opportunities. In 2010 he had 518 AB in the five spot, driving in 81 RBI (he also had 102 AB hitting cleanup, with 28 RBI). In 2009 he spent 412 AB hitting sixth or seventh. Clearly, the additional chances suited him well.
He also long had the tag of not being a “clutch player”. In 2009 he hit .207 with runners in scoring position. In 2008, while he hit .263, he had only one HR. Last season he hit .322 with five home runs and 77 RBI.
It is noteworthy that of his 29 HR, 18 of them came with the bases empty (he had six with a man on first as well as the five with runners in scoring position). Granted, it’s not like he was overly lucky with RISP (.329 BABIP), but if he does have a decrease in luck, he may not be able to match the RBI total.
Is that really a “downside”? Absolutely not, but it is just something worth noting. The truth is, he’s a good enough hitter and the Yankees lineup is so strong, I wouldn’t worry about his RBI total.
Among 2B in ’10, Cano ranked the following:
- Tied for second in HR with Rickie Weeks (Dan Uggla led the way with 33)
- Second in R (Rickie Weeks led the way with 112, though only four 2B had as many as 100)
- First in RBI (Dan Uggla was first with 105, the only other 2B with more than 83)
- Second in Average (Omar Infante was first at .321; only four 2B with at least 400 AB hit .300 or better)
Clearly, it’s hard to argue those numbers, isn’t it?
What to expect in 2011: There is nothing in his numbers that give you any reason to think that he’s going to regress significantly. Just look at some of the peripherals:
- .326 BABIP
- 36.5% fly ball rate
- 19.3% line drive rate
- 14.4% HR/FB
- 12.3% strikeout rate
- 8.2% walk rate
You want to argue that his fly ball and HR/FB is greater than his career marks? Well, he’s also just 28-years old, so the idea of adding power is not out of the ordinary. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him eclipse 30 in 2011.
The fact of the matter is that Cano has developed into one of the best hitters in baseball, not just one of the best second baseman. The fact that he plays a weaker position only makes him all the more appealing. Owning him gives you an advantage over all of your competitors, because few other players at his position bring average, power and the potential to go 100/100.
With the power of the Yankees lineup behind him, he should be a lock for the first round in all formats, and a player who should go in the middle of the round.
What are your thoughts? Is Cano a first round pick? Why or why not?
Make sure to check out our previous first round pick analysis articles: