Is Lorenzo Cain the Best Option for CF?

Lorenzo Cain crashes into the right field wall after missing a catch in the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins.

I had been planning this article for about a week or so. This morning while finishing it up, Yodazilla basically brings up the same topic. Nice to see great minds think alike.

Once Melky Cabrera was trade to the Giants, the Royals came out and stated that Lorenzo Cain will be the starting CF for the Royals going into spring training. Cain had a decent year in AAA with 16 HRs and a 0.312 AVG. All arrows point to him as the best option, but I am not so sure.

The Royals really have 4 options right now for CF, Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Mitch Maier and David Lough. To begin with, are the ZIP projections for the 4 players:

Name Bats Age BA OBP SLG OPS CF Fielding
Cain R 26 0.259 0.314 0.370 0.684 Fair
Dyson L 27 0.237 0.290 0.302 0.592 Very Good
Maier L 30 0.246 0.324 0.353 0.677 Fair
Lough L 26 0.255 0.297 0.362 0.659 Fair

ZIPs has Cain with the highest OPS with Maier and Lough closely behind him. Dyson's OPS looks to be about 100 points lower. Dyson is the only one projected to play above average defense in CF while the other 3 are below average.

Here are the numbers from the Oliver projections:

Name BA OBP SLG OPS
Cain 0.266 0.323 0.388 0.711
Dyson 0.239 0.290 0.308 0.598
Maier 0.243 0.321 0.348 0.669
Lough 0.265 0.301 0.394 0.695

Cain still has the best numbers, but Lough now jumps Maier with Dyson even further behind. Here is my quick take on the 4 players.

Jarrod Dyson - For the Royals in 2012, Dyson is not the answer. He just doesn't get on base enough, mainly because of his 25% K%, to utilize his speed. While he may be the best CF defender, the speed is not enough to make for his inability to hit.

Dyson's one ace-in-the-hole for the season is his speed though. He could be used as a pinch running specialist. The Royals like to have a deep bullpen. With the current starting pitching staff, they are probably going to need it. If Lough or Maier is the 4th OF, it would leave only 2 spots on the bench for an utility infielderr and a catcher. Having Dyson on the bench for pinch running is a luxury the Royals can't afford. Dyson is just not the answer.

Mitch Maier - I am afraid Mitch's run with the Royals is finally done. Of the 4 players, he is the oldest by 4 years (he is 30, Dyson is 27, Lough and Cain are 26). Mitch's numbers will only get worse as he continues to age. While he would likely have the best OBP of the 4, his SLG is below both Lough and Cain. I would not be surprised if Mitch doesn't get a chance to write letters home from summer camp this year.

David Lough - Lough has performed decently in AAA over the last 2 seasons. While his numbers aren't going to win a MVP, they are very serviceable. Here are his career AAA numbers compared to Cain's:

Lough: 0.299/0.356/0.460
Cain: 0.305/0.377/0.476

Cain has the advantage, but the numbers were much closer than I though they would be. Lough's main problem in the comparison is his walk rate. Lough projects to have a walk rate near 5% while Cain's rate will be near 6.5%.

Lorenzo Cain - In a vacuum, Cain looks to be the best player of the 4. He has the ability to hit for both average and power. Also, he has the speed the Royals are looking for at the top of the lineup. The Royals seemed to have made the best chose, but I think they could do a bit better.

Conclusion

The Solution is a Cain-Lough platoon. The Royals have the nice opportunity to have a nice platoon option in the OF with Lough facing RHP and Cain facing LHP. I think this is the best option because Lough is the youngest and best hitter of the LHH options. Cain is the only RHH. Since they are both relatively young, they will be playing in their peak years. Also, they will give Yost a nice in game substitution option. If the opposing team changes to a different handed pitcher, the Royals can then just bring in the other hitter. The total difference would probably amount to a win or two gain. Not a bad gain for not spending any money.

Cain is by for the best option for the Royals in CF for 2012. The Royals could improve the situation if they were to pair Cain with Lough for a true platoon. Who would start would depend on the opposing starting pitcher. With all these stated ideas, I fully expect the Royals to keep Cain in CF and Juan Pierre-lite will be the reserve outfielder.

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