Before you take a gander at this post regarding Lorenzo Cain from a fantasy, and particularly dynasty or keeper league format, take a look at Neil Weinberg’s post on Cain over at the main site. It is a fascinating piece about what has caused Cain to breakout offensively during his age 29 season.
Speaking of Cain being 29, that’s the main theme around owning or potentially owing Cain in a long term format. Subjectively, it feels like Cain has been in the league for a long time but is also very young, which is probably the most contrasting statement I have written in some time. For whatever reason, it does not “feel” like Cain is 29 just yet. Either way, he has been in the league in some capacity since 2010 and only just now, in his third full season, is he becoming an offensive juggernaut.
There are few fantasy outfielders that can contribute across the board. One of my favorites, AJ Pollock, is one I have owned in dynasty since the beginning of the year. Seeing a similar trajectory offensively but with a few more years added on, I traded for Cain midway through the season as well and the similarities between their two stat lines is actually quite staggering. But while Pollock is still just entering his late-20’s, Cain may soon be on the downhill quite possible as quickly as he was on the uphill. In dynasty leagues, guys like Cain are obviously very valuable but their trade value decreases significantly once they pass age 30.
If you have been an owner of Cain for multiple years and are just now seeing those dividends pay off, there has to be some consideration of selling high and moving him for a highly touted young prospect or a group of younger players. The determination of whether you should move or hold him depends on two things. The first is whether you believe Cain has genuinely improved his game enough to continue a top-20 fantasy performance. The second is where you are in contention both now and what you project in the future.
To tackle part one first, Weinberg’s piece about Cain closing a hole in his swing is a big argument in favor of him being this type of a hitter. Fixing this hole has allowed him to enjoy a better walk rate, lower strikeout rate, and significantly more power. What’s equally exciting about his skills at the plate improving is that he has continued to be a dynamo on the basepaths. He is not going to give you Billy Hamilton steal totals, but he has been caught just eight times in his last 46 stolen base attempts dating back to last season. That 85% stolen base rate should allow him to steal 30 bags, which is obviously very valuable in all leagues nonetheless very deep dynasty leagues where stolen bases are difficult to find.
As for part two, whether you are in contention or not, the consideration is about when you expect to contend. If you are out of it for this year but could feasibly compete next year with a few adjustments to your roster, Cain is a guy you want to keep around. This is the camp I am in, and therefore I do not necessarily have him on the trading block but I am certainly listening to offers. If you are in a rebuilding stage, right now – and literally the very moment you are reading this article – is the time to make a move with Cain. He has had an amazing season so far across all stat categories and you will have a much easier time trading him now before he hits the dreaded age 30 season.
If you expect Cain to tail off, I would consider moving him even if you expect to contend next season. The absurdly athletic Cain seems to have made the strides he needed to make offensively to consistently perform well. His ability to contribute across the board should not be understated, but if you put him on the block now and get good offers, he is still a guy worth selling high on.
Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.