Robinson Cano: Just a Good Second Baseman

Robinson Cano was a usually considered a first round pick for years until he signed with the Mariners. This past season, he came in as the 7th best 2B according to our end-of-season rankings. While not horrible finish, he was consistently in the top few for several seasons. After looking over Cano’s season, I think the 2015 results will be more of the same going forward.

Several factors have been limiting Cano’s potential since leaving the Yankees. Some under his control, some not. I will start with his drop in home runs. After peaking at 33 home runs in 2012, he has hit 14 and 21 the past two seasons. While he did have just an 11% HR/FB% in 2014, he put up a 16% value in 2015 which was 3rd highest career value. His 2015 Hard Hit% was at 32.4% was almost the same as a career 32.8%. Cano’s power doesn’t seem to be taking a nose dive. His power is down for one reason, fewer flyballs and the not spacious Safeco field.

Before signing with the Mariners, he had a career 31% FB%. In his two years with the Mariners, it is 25%. I think he has got it in his head that he can’t hit the ball out of Safeco, so he isn’t trying but should. He hasn’t been affected by the stadium with 21 HR hit in Seattle and 15 away. If I was going to look at one time for Cano to improve on in 2016, I would like to see him put a little more loft on the ball.

With the decline in home runs, he will have a lower number of Runs and RBI. The drop in home runs explains some of his drop in Runs and RBI, but the biggest cause has been the anemic Seattle offense. Here are Cano’s last R+RBI totals along with his team’s overall runs scored per game over the past 5 seasons.

Season: R/G, Run+RBI

2011: 5.35, 222
2012: 4.96, 197
2013: 4.01, 188
2014: 3.91, 159
2015: 4.05, 161

A drop of 60 R+RBI is huge while even the drop of 30 from 2013 is nothing to sneeze at. If Cano gets around 25 HR, the Mariners lack of hitting talent will limit his upside.

The final noticeable change was his drop in BB% from 9.2% in 2014 to 6.4%. The cause for the drop can be attributed to a drop in his intentional walk rate. Here are his overall walk rates and non-intention walk rates for the past four seasons.

2012: 8.8%, 7.4%
2013: 9.5% 7.4%
2014: 9.2%, 6.4%
2015: 6.4%, 5.7%
Career: 7.7%, 6.4%

For people worried about a declining plate discipline, don’t. His real walk rate is in line with his previous values. Those owners in OBP leagues, the drop may be permanent and taken into account.

For 2016, I think 2015 Cano is the floor. His AVG could increase after it was at his lowest level since 2008. His power could jump by hitting a few more home runs. Also, the Mariners offense could regress after scoring the 3rd lowest amount of runs in the AL last year. I am a small bit more optimistic that his Steamer projection (18 HR, 157 R+RBI, .285 AVG) with 20 HR, 165 R+RBI, a .300 AVG. I really see this past season as a floor and he could see quite a bit more upside.

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Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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I agree. He had a great second half and I think he can return to being a .300 hitter. His average flyball distance returned back to the mark he had in his last season with the Yankees(around 292 feet I believe). It was down to around 278 feet in his first year with the Mariners. I look forward to seeing what he can bring next season.


It all depends on whether he’s really over his lingering illness… or is he on the Franklin Gutierrez gastrointestinal roller coaster to hell? The Mariners seem vexed by infectious disease — back in 2001-2002 they even managed to have a player (Carlos Guillén) with tuberculosis. Vexed. Cursed. Or… just a sloppy medical staff not catching these things early?