There is no question that, when healthy, Lorenzo Cain is a fun player to watch. With his excellent defense and natural speed, Cain appears as though he could be the type of player that could start in center and slot towards the top of the lineup for years to come. However, the problem is that Cain is has yet to prove that he can actually remain healthy.
Cain’s lack of health may be a reason as to why the Royals are rumored to be pursuing Dexter Fowler. Although Fowler does not provide the Royals with what they seemingly need in the outfield, specifically a power bat, he could slot in as the leadoff hitter, allowing Alex Gordon to hit second and possibly deepen the lineup. Fowler has also displayed an ability to get on base, averaging 65 walks per season over the last five years. Cain, meanwhile, has 58 walks in his major league career.
So, what would the Royals potential pursuit of Fowler mean for Cain? The first option is that Cain could potential slot in at right field, a position that he has played 46 times in his career, including 32 times last season. An outfield consisting of the now seemingly perennial Gold Glove award winning Gordon, Fowler and Cain would constitute an excellent tandem defensively.
It could also mean that the Royals may envision Lorenzo Cain as more of a fourth outfielder. Allowing Cain to play four times a week, as opposed to every day, may help to preserve him throughout the entire season, especially since it may be fair to wonder if he can handle being an every day player without injury. Cain could also enter as a defensive substitution late in games, or make his presence felt as a pinch runner.
Just because Cain would end up as a fourth outfielder does not mean that he wouldn’t get his chances. If Cain was to receive around 350 at bats in a part time role, that would have been eighth on the Royals last season. In fact, on most teams, the fourth outfielder still receives a significant amount of at bats. Cain would likely still find his way into the lineup on a regular basis.
Lorenzo Cain is certainly a tantalizing player, showing flashes that can make one think that he could be a very good player if he can remain on the field. However, the best way to keep Cain available all season may be to take him off the diamond at times, and turning Cain into a fourth outfielder.