Dave Pinto of the excellent Baseball Musings blog has undertaken the massive task of profiling every single player in Major League Baseball. He recently covered Robinson Cano, and made an assertion that I strongly disagree with:
Like Carew, Robinson Cano is not likely to stay at second base very long. His fielding numbers came up negative in most years he’s played. He does have the power to move to first base, but I would guess he’s more likely to follow the Alfonso Soriano route to the outfield. If the Yankees can develop a slick fielding second baseman, they may be able to fill their leftfield hole with Robinson eventually.
Cano would lose a significant amount of value if he moved to the outfield. His .320/.352/.520 bat is elite at 2nd base, while it is closer to the pack (but still excellent) relative to left fielders. Just as a point of reference, the league average left fielder hit .269/.340/.440 last year, while the league average second baseman came in at .271/.336/.414. While it does not seem to be a huge difference, Cano as an average defender in LF last year would likely have been about a 3.8 win player (thanks to Mike Axisa for running the numbers), rather than the 4.4 win guy he was at 2nd base.
More importantly, it is easier to find a decent bat in left field than it is to find one up the middle. If you develop a player who is great offensively at one of those positions, you only move him if he is awful defensively, and Cano does not qualify. The strength of the Yankee dynasty clubs on the late 90′s was their incredible offensive capabilities up the middle, with Posada, Jeter, Bernie, and Knoblauch providing the core around which the rest of the lineup could be built. Hopefully, Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Jesus Montero form the core of the latest Yankee powerhouse.
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