Kansas City Royals Lorenzo Cain Looks Like Torii Hunter
By John Viril
When the Kansas City Royals traded Zack Greinke to the Brewers in exchange for Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, Jeremy Jeffress, and Lorenzo Cain, Baseball Prospectus analyst Christina Kahrl believed Cain was the worst player of the lot.
Back in those long-ago days of December, 2010, analysts considered Cain a soon-to-be 25-year-old player that was unlikely to unlock his significant upside. Former Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski did concede that many people around baseball compared Cain’s athletic upside to Torii Hunter.
However, most analysts huffed that Lorenzo Cain was unlikely to ever become a star.
Today, Kansas City Royals fans can look back on the “wisdom” of yesteryear and laugh. Lorenzo Cain became THE breakout star of the 2014 playoffs.
Even so, Kansas City Royals star Lorenzo Cain still fell short of the Torii Hunter standard. Cain certainly looked like the nine-time Gold Glove defender in center field, but he simply lacked Hunter’s pop at the plate.
While Lorenzo Cain hit a solid .301/.339/.412 for an adjusted on base plus slugging (OPS+) of 110 (10% better than a league average hitter, which almost exactly matched Hunter’s career OPS+ of 111), he lacked the home run power that Torii Hunter displayed in his prime. According to Baseball Reference, Hunter’s averaged 24 home runs over a typical 162 game span in his career. At age 28, Cain had never hit more than seven in a season.
Heck, as of 2014, Cain had hit a grand total of 17 home runs in his career.
So while Lorenzo Cain had an undeniably fine 2014 season for the Kansas City Royals, many analysts expected his offensive value to “regress to the mean” in 2015 due to his unusually-high batting average balls in play (BABIP) of .380. They regarded Cain as something of a one-year wonder .
Instead, Lorenzo Cain decided to do the one thing that separated him from becoming a later-day Torii Hunter clone: add some pop to his bat.
KC Royals manager Ned Yost believed he could do it. Yost took a leap of faith in Lorenzo Cain’s progress by installing him as the KC Royals number three hitter to open the season.
Lorenzo Cain has rewarded his manager’s faith.
After a three game outburst against Milwaukee in which Cain has hit two home runs, one triple, and one double, he’s boosted his 2015 triple slash to .291/.344/.444 with 12 doubles, 2 triples, and 6 home runs. Lorenzo Cain projects to produce 16 home runs and 76 RBI’s on the season. Cain has done all of this despite his BABIP sliding to .337, which is slightly below his career average of .344.
Now, at age 29, Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain looks like a veritable clone of Torii Hunter in his prime.
Lorenzo Cain still has a little less pop, but he also plays in a post-steroid era with dominant pitching. But, Cain also has more a little more speed than Torii Hunter. For the last year and half, the comparison looks very close.
Take a look at Torii Hunter’s career stats:
|162 Game Avg.||605||89||169||34||3||24||95||14||7||46||119||.279||.333||.463||.797||111|
|MIN (12 yrs)||4716||702||1276||269||26||200||747||127||62||338||910||.271||.324||.466||.790||104|
|LAA (5 yrs)||2689||396||768||147||6||105||432||60||29||258||564||.286||.352||.462||.814||122|
|DET (2 yrs)||1155||161||341||70||7||34||167||7||5||49||202||.295||.327||.456||.783||113|
Torii Hunter came into his power at age 25, while Cain appears to be getting his at age 29. However, that delay isn’t surprising when you remember that Lorenzo Cain only began playing baseball after getting cut from his high school basketball team at age 15. His late start on the diamond has slowed Cain’s development ever since.
Given that the similarly athletic Hunter continued to perform at the plate well into his 30’s, Kansas City Royals fans can hope Lorenzo Cain will age similarly.
If he continues to add power as he ages, Lorenzo Cain will live up to those Torii Hunter comparisons.
Next: Five Reasons Chris Young Can Continue To Dominate