Player spotlight: Robinson Cano

Seattle Mariners LogoRobinson Cano has long performed and been taken as a top second base option in fantasy. After a disappointing overall performance in 2015 (by Cano standards) how should fantasy owners proceed with his selection? Until 2014 this aligned nicely with his performance amongst second baseman across the league:

  ADP Ranking
Overall 2B Overall 2B
2012 9 1 17 1
2013 6 1 13 1
2014 10 1 32 5
2015 19 2 93 9
2016 54* 4* 52* 3*
* Based on Fantasypros data

Even 2014, a down year by end of season ranking, was acceptable for fantasy owners. In 2015 things seem to have fallen off the rails. Lets look into why that happened.

2015 was a Jekyll and Hyde story for Cano. Over the first two and a half months of the season (until June 22), he was absolutely terrible. After that date his numbers looked much more like his usual self:

2012 697 33 105 94 3 0.302
2013 681 27 81 107 7 0.313
2014 665 14 77 82 10 0.314
4/6-6/22 286 2 27 22 1 0.243
6/22-10/4 388 19 55 57 1 0.319
Career Averages: 685 23 92 94 5 0.307

In about 100 more plate appearances he hit 17 more home runs, more than doubled his run and RBI totals, and increased his average by more than 75 points in after June 22nd. People who didn’t give up on him through the first nearly half of the season were nicely rewarded in the second half. In fact, besides batting average and stolen base totals, 2015 was a better season than 2014. If he had played like he did from June 22 on the entire season, he would have had a near career year.

If we look at his batted ball profile through those time frames, we see a couple of interesting things.

2012 25.6 % 48.7 % 25.8 % 24.1 %
2013 26.0 % 44.3 % 29.8 % 17.3 %
2014 22.6 % 52.6 % 24.7 % 10.7 %
4/6-6/22 23.4 % 53.6 % 23.0 % 3.9 %
6/22-10/4 24.7 % 48.2 % 27.1 % 23.5 %
Career Average: 21.5 % 48.6 % 29.9 % 13.9 %

During his slump over the first two and a half months of the season he hit ground balls at a higher rate than any time in his career.  It was even higher than 2014 when he tied his career low in home runs, and his fly ball rate was 23%, the lowest of his career. It also didn’t help that when he was hitting the ball into the air, his HR/FB rate was by far the worst of his career at 3.9%. His second half was an impressive turn around. He turned nearly 5% of his ground balls into fly balls and had a monstrous 23.5% HR/FB rate. Had that rate been present for the entire season, he would have ranked #6 between Mike Trout and Paul Goldschmidt in HR/FB rate.

One may believe that moving to Safeco is what dropped his HR/FB rate. This is not actually the case; check out his average flyball distance:

player spotlight Robinson CanoIn 2014 he hit the shortest flyballs of his career at 278.8 feet; this paralleled with his fewest home runs. His career average is right at 290 feet. The first two and a half months of 2015 was nearly as low as 2014 at about 280 feet, and he only hit 2 home runs. The rest of 2015 was excellent, at over 305 feet. This brought the season numbers up to just above his career average. During that time he hit 19 home runs.

After looking at these numbers, 2015 should be the floor for Cano moving forward. He will bounce back to around a .300 average, low 20’s in home runs, 80 each for runs and RBIs, and a handful of steals.

Should he be taken as a top 5 second baseman and considered a top 50 overall player? Let’s take a look at where some other popular second baseman are being drafted currently to see if there’s value there.

Kolten Wong and Rougned Odor were popular sleepers coming into 2015. Pedroia was a staple for years in the top 5, but injuries and declining numbers have lowered his value.  Neil Walker is not a sexy pick, but his numbers are very consistent from year to year and he usually finishes in the top 12. Here are the players Steamer projections:

  HR Runs RBI Steals Avg
Cano 18 78 81 5 .285
Odor 18 75 72 12 .273
Wong 13 63 59 16 .264
Walker 18 65 61 3 .258
Pedroia 11 71 60 6 .284

And their consensus rankings and current ADP*

  Consensus Rankings Current ADP
Overall 2B Overall 2B
Cano 52 3 54 4
Odor 99 7 108 10
Wong 124 9 154 12
Walker 198 14 252 27
Pedroia 220 19 181 16
* Based on Fantasypros data

Cano will bounce back and regain his place as a top 5 fantasy player at second base. However, based on projections, rankings and current draft position, there are a number of similar players that could provide similar numbers this year, albeit with a little more risk. I would target Odor or Wong 50-100 picks after Cano, especially in keeper or dynasty leagues. Both players are being taken just outside the top 10 at the position and have the upside to jump into the top 5.

Walker and Pedroia may not have top 5 upside, or long term appeal for keeper and dynasty leagues. They can, however, provide quite a bit of value for where they are being taken. Pedroia could especially return value (if your roster can afford fewer steals) as he is being taken outside of the top 15 with similar power projections as Wong, with more runs and a better batting average. Walker is also similar to Wong in every category except stolen bases, and he could potentially be taken at the end of the draft.  Cano is a safe choice, and safety is what you are paying for by taking him higher than the rest.


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Scott Rowland

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Scott is a graduate from Indiana University (go Hoosiers) and works as a project manager for HERE – They make software that powers GPS and real-time traffic so feel free to blame him when you get lost. He lives in Chicago, just north of Wrigley Field, with his wife, daughter, dog and cat, and loves to spend an afternoon catching a Cubs game.