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April 7, 2005

by Fabian

Well, that sucked (SG)

This was written before spring training.

Robinson Cano, 2B, 22

Coming into the 2004 season, I did not think highly enough of Cano to rank him amongst the top 10 Yankee prospects, which Baseball America did. While I liked that he hit for average and played, reportedly, good defense, I saw too little power and/or patience to be truly interested and longed for Cano to at least return to his ’02 offensive level, where he at least displayed good pop. The lefty 2B ended up making a larger leap forward than I could have ever dreamed.

While I have long had concerns with Cano’s low BB rate, his K rate was never really an issue since he was the type of hitter that swung at everything and hit most things. The greatest change to this approach in ’04 was that Cano began swinging less and waiting more while maintaining his contact skills, the result was the best season of his career.

While early BA reports pegged Cano as a poor man’s version of Soriano, capable of 30 home runs in his peak, his statistical performance has altered this outlook. Cano walks more than Soriano did and strikes out less. This leads me to have more faith in Cano’s ability to consistently hit for average, and he looks like a future .285-.300 big league hitter, while forcing me to doubt his ever hitting as many as 30 home runs in a season. According to some statistical work done by Baseball Prospectus, players with higher strikeout rates in the minors tend to develop more power. With this in mind, I see Cano’s home run ceiling as 25 with about 15-20 as the expected seasonal total. Another difference between Cano and Soriano is that while Soriano is a prolific base stealer, Cano does not have that ability or natural speed so don’t expect too much excitement out of him on the base paths.

My personal anger about the Tony Womack signing was due to both Womack’s demonstrated career ineptitude combined with my belief that Cano is ready for the big leagues. I think Cano would prove at least a similar defensive player to Womack, a poor fielding SS who was solid at 2B last year, in addition to providing around the same offense with potential for more. Though Cano struggled after his promotion to AAA, posting a .259 average and .403 slugging percentage, he hit better down the stretch and into the playoffs in addition to hitting well in the Dominican Winter League. At this point, my sole offensive concern would be that he might require protection from LHP to begin his big league career as he managed only 8 extra base hits against them in 109 at bats between AA and AAA this year, as opposed to 44 in 399 at bats against RHP. That in mind, Miguel Cairo would have been great to have on hand for this job, but hopefully, Andy Phillips will be able to provide this service and Cano will make the service at least a consideration by beating out Tony Womack for the 2B job in spring training.

While not a player with an outstanding ceiling, Cano looks to be a very good big leaguer in his prime with prime years in the .290/.350/.470 (AVG/OBP/SLG) range. Hopefully, for the sake of Yankee fans who lack the need to see Tony Womack perform poorly some more, the journey towards that ceiling begins in ’05.

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