With the Royals out of the race (as usual), one player who has held my attention this September with some exciting play has been Lorenzo Cain.
Cain, a 26 year old center fielder, put up some great numbers with the Brewers in 2010,
playing stellar defense and putting up a .743 OPS in 43 games. I was pretty excited to see him come over in the Zack Greinke deal, and was disappointed when he spent 2011 in Omaha (although with good reason, given how our outfield performed).
Heading into 2012, with Melky Cabrera out of the way, I looked forward to seeing Cain roaming the outfield and playing some exciting baseball. Unfortunately, a hip flexor injury sidelined him, and from what I’ve read, is probably still bothering him to a degree. I don’t think we’ve seen him play to his full ability yet in KC although, even at less than 100%, he still looks pretty smooth roaming center field.
I’ve been keeping an eye on Cain, trying to figure out what we have here, by comparing to him some old Royals. What I’m hoping is that he is comparable to one of my favorite players of all time, Amos Otis.
Cain is much bigger at 6’2 and 200 pounds vs. 5’11 and 165 for Otis, but he appears to have a similar skill set and an equally smooth way of playing the game. Otis was a more proven commodity at age 26, having his breakout season when he was just 23, but something about Cain makes me think he could be a similar player.
In his best years with the Royals (1970-79) Otis averaged 146 games per season, with 29 doubles, 5 triples, 16 homers, and 29 steals while putting up a solid .798 OPS. During that same stretch, he also averaged a WAR of 3.8, with 4.1 on offense and -0.3 on defense (I find it hard to believe he had a negative defensive WAR, but so be it).
Cain has seen limited major league time so far, with only 109 games over parts of three seasons. Adding up his totals for that 109 games, he’s put up some decent numbers with 20 doubles, 3 triples, 8 homers, 16 steals, and a .735 OPS. Not quite up to the numbers Otis put up, but not bad either. Over that 109 game stretch, Cain has put up a WAR of 3.5, falling just short of the 3.8 Otis averaged.
Looking at the WAR numbers, Cain might be a little better than Otis in the field, which I think will be more apparent once he’s had time to heal this winter, and we may see more plays like THIS.
I’m not sure if he’s got the speed of Otis, but he’s much bigger, and I think will hit for more power. Taking what he’s averaged in 60 games and 240 plate appearances this year and projecting it out over 140 games (the Royals have played 142), Cain would have something along the lines of 19 doubles, 5 triples, 16 homers, and 21 steals in 560 plate appearances. On the downside, he’d project out to only 33 walks with 128 K’s. Ideally, you’d like to see a little more patience here and a higher OBP.
If the Royals get anything near the production Otis put up in the 1970’s, we could witness some all-star caliber play from Cain, and may have an outfield in Gordon, Cain, and Wil Myers that rivals that of Beltran, Damon, and Dye. Of course, like those teams in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the offense will only take us as far as our pitching…but that’s another story.