When Robinson Cano signed with the Seattle Mariners this past offseason, plenty of debate began as to what his production would look like in 2014. Safeco Field is no Yankee Stadium; in 2013, Yankee Stadium ranked 9th in Park Factors for HR where Safeco came in at 21st. While the AL East is certainly considered one of the toughest divisions in baseball, Cano was heading to the AL West, loaded with young stud arms and those pitcher-friendly parks (only Houston is ranked inside the top 15).
Through 52 games in 2014 , Cano has 2 HR. At this point in the season in 2013 Cano had 12 HR. The average is there (currently batting 0.327), the K and BB rate are in line with career numbers, so is this all based on the fact that he has played 32 games in those tough Park Factor parks? And what should owners expect from Cano going forward?
His Slugging Percentage is the lowest it has been since 2008. That year, in 159 games, Cano hit 14 home runs and struggled out of the gate, hitting a meager .151 in April. While his power stroke never took hold that year, he still batted over .287 each month over the rest of the season. So far in 2014 his ability to put the baseball in play is there, with a career normal batting average.
Perhaps some of the struggles are related to the pitches Cano is seeing. According to Fangraphs, Cano is seeing fastballs nearly 2/3 of the time. The power pitchers in the AL West appear to be attacking him with faster pitches as well (average FB velocity is 92.5, 0.8mph faster than he was seeing in 2013).
Perhaps Cano is pressing to do too much right now. He is swinging at more pitches, especially more pitches outside of the zone. This may be partially responsible for his increased ground ball rate. The Mariners attempted to surround Cano with a bit of protection in the lineup, but when you sign a 10-year contract and become the offensive face of a franchise, you are bound to press.
The Mariners spend most of September on the road (18 road games to 9 home games). I know it is a long way off, but for owners considering making a deep fantasy baseball playoff run, targeting a currently slumping Robinson Cano could bring a title come September. Until the power comes around, Cano still offers upside in points-based and roto leagues. As an example, in one of my points leagues, Cano sits as the #10 2B. He is positioned ahead of Dustin Pedroia and Matt Carpenter. In my roto league, according to ESPN, Cano is the 7th rated 2B. He is still scoring and driving in runs, and even has a couple of stolen bases. He plays an elite position and hits in the meat of the lineup. Is he starting to come around? Over his last 14 games (before his hand injury), Cano has 9 multi-hit games, 1 HR, 2 SB, 7 runs scored and 10 RBI, and he has raised his average from .307 to .327.
So what is the going price of Cano these days? Looking at recent trades on CBS, Cano has been traded straight up for Alfonso Soriano, John Lackey, Albert Pujols, Brian Dozier, Justin Verlander, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hisashi Iwakuma, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Wacha, Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright. Some 2-1 deals include Jose Altuve/Anthony Rizzo, Dustin Pedrioa/Xander Bogaerts, Corey Kluber/Dustin Ackley, David Robertson/Jered Weaver, David Ortiz/Adrian Gonzalez and Mike Leake/Chris Tillman. Quite an interesting and diverse group of players. There are some first round talent names mentioned here, but overall most are just solid productive players. The conclusion here is, there really is no set value for Cano right now. His value lies solely in the eyes of his owner. You may be able to acquire him for a player as low as Dozier or have to pay as much as Tulowitzki. Given his production as of late, the window may be closing to make a discounted deal for the perennial top second baseman. If you’re considering making a deal for Cano, now would be the time to do it.