Lorenzo Cain launches a three run homer. Is he the man to play center in Atlanta? Please Credit: Bob DeChiara-US PRESSWIRE

Braves CF Options - Would Lorenzo Cain Fit?

Word surfaced last week that the Braves were exploring a trade with Kansas City for Lorenzo Cain and with the suggestion yesterday that they try to land Alex Gordon in a deal it sounds like a package to fill two needs. I discussed Gordon yesterday so let’s look at Lorenzo Cain in depth.

Cain By The Numbers

Lorenzo Cain was drafted by the Brewers in the 17th round of the 2004 draft made his major league debut as a pinch hitter against the Braves in July of 2010 but Matt Diaz ruined his first at bat with a diving catch . Cain stayed with the Brewers the rest of the season displacing Carlos Gomez in center field and looked like he was their guy finishing with a line of .306/.348/.415, .109 ISO fWAR 1.2, rWAR 2.0 and 7 of 8 in steals. But in December he was traded to the Royals with Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi for Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt. When the Royals signed Melky Cabrera Cain was sent to AAA  in 2011 and played only six games as a Royal that year.

The Royals signed Cain to a one-year contract for the 2012 season but he got off to a slow start then badly injured a hip flexor so Jarrod Dyson played most of the first half in center. Cain returned mid-in July and had good numbers through the end of the year – .275/.326/.440, .165 ISO with 10 steals in 10 attempts in 56 games (48 starts).

The 26 year old (27 in April)  right handed hitter’s splits are almost even though he has faced fewer right handers in his career.

I Split G PA R 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG BAbip
vs RHP as RHB 97 290 16 2 5 26 15 62 .279 .324 .409 .343
vs LHP as RHB 55 135 5 1 3 19 10 26 .287 .333 .418 .333
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/14/2012.
I suppose the biggest knock on Cain are a lower OBP than I one would like in an outfielder who isn’t in a power slot. One of the oddities of his career so far is that even though he spent a year in AAA and didn’t have a consistent spot for a whole year, we do have two quite similar period to compare; his initial call up in 2010 and the last half of 2012 were both July through October.
Split G GS PA 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS ISO
2010 43 36 158 11 1 1 13 7 1 9 28 .306 .348 .415 .763 .109
2012 56 50 227 9 2 7 30 10 0 14 51 .275 .326 .440 .766 .165
Those numbers are pretty consistent though it appears he tried to swing for more power in 2012   He looks like a 120 K, 20 SB guy who could grab extra base hits with his speed.


Defense

Cain’s played mostly center field though he has some time in right and left. Below are his defense metrics from Fangraphs compared with some others I’ve discussed and a little explanation is required.
Name Pos Inn ADRS UZR UZR/150 Defensive Ability
Angel Pagan RF 259.2 4 5.3 31.3 Gold Glove Caliber
Angel Pagan LF 204.1 4 1.1 6.1 Great
Angel Pagan CF 3116 -1 -5.2 -2 Above Average
Ben Revere RF 761.2 13 17.8 28.6 Average
Ben Revere CF 1123 -4 7.3 9.2 Below Average
Ben Revere LF 171.1 -4 1.5 6.3 Poor
Denard Span CF 3008 24 21.9 9.2 Awful
Lorenzo Cain CF 726.1 7.5 7.8 14.4
Lorenzo Cain RF 123.2 1.5 1.2 13.1

UZR is additive in the Fangraph tables and the 2011 sample size is too small to be relevant (for me anyway), here are the numbers.

Innings UZR UZR/150
2010 306.1 1.5 5.7
2011 17 -0.3 -38.8
2012 403 6.5 23.3
 Totals 726.1 7.8 14.4

If we remove those 17 innings that amounted to 20 balls hit to him the UZR total becomes 8.1.  The UZR/150 number would be different too though I have no idea how they magic that up. Cain looks like an above average center fielder to DRS and that’s what I read as well; above average but not yet great.

Conclusions?

Lorenzo Cain looks like a good center fielder who was always behind someone the team liked better, was traded for someone they needed more or got injured and managed only half a season.  He’s never hit leadoff with regularity as both the Brewers and the Royals preferred other similar bats. When he has hit there he hasn’t been awful – .281/.333/.457 in 81 at bats – but how he would do there on a daily basis is uncertain. His competition in Kansas City – Jarrod Dyson – is older, doesn’t hit left handed pitching as well and base stealing his is rare.   Next in line would be Bubba Starling and reports I read say he isn’t ready. Wil Myers plays a corner so he’s not their replacement either.  Like any player Cain is available for the right price but with no one better around the Royals would likely have to be persuaded to trade him and that raises his price.

Is Lorenzo Cain the man you want?  It depends on what you expect. Although he was injured and missed part of 2012 he was on pace for 25 steals. That’s not Bourn territory but it isn’t awful. He’d likely cost more than he’s worth due to positional scarcity but he is young and controllable.

That’s A Wrap

Lorenzo Cain is a player Frank Wren has tried several times to get. Historically that makes him a player he will keep trying to get – see also Drew Sutton, Rodrigo Lopez  – but I don’t think he’ll overpay for him. The Royals like the Twins want pitching and I personally prefer both Denard Span and Ben Revere over Cain by a large margin.  I wouldn’t pass on Cain, he’s a good player. But it would have to be the right deal and I don’t see that deal happening this year.

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