In recent memory, tortured as it may be, I do not recollect a hitter who can look as good as Lorenzo Cain does in one at-bat and as absolutely awful as he might in the next. Case in point was the September 7th series opener against Chicago.
Cain struck out his first two times at bat in that game and looked atrocious doing so. I mean, he looked like one of us up there. One of us older guys who does not see as well as we used to and was not great hitter when they could. Of course, Cain then homered in his next two at-bats in the same game.
Don't go for a beer when Lorenzo Cain is coming up. Good or bad, you are going to see something interesting.
What we have seen to date out of Lorenzo is pretty much along the lines of what prospect guys have been saying. He is athletic with some real pop in his bat, but he is also a free swinger and that swing is long. Cain can be exploited at the plate, but he can also dish out some trouble for opposing pitchers as well. He strikes me as a guy where you are always going to have to take the good with the bad.
Cain has 55 strikeouts this year (22% of his plate appearances), but he also has 7 home runs and 9 steals with no caught stealing. He is injury prone, but appears to be a well above average defensive centerfielder when healthy. A lot can happen between now and then, but should Cain stay healthy for all of 2012, I frankly envision him posting a triple slash not a lot different from what he currently carries (.265/.313/.416 - prior to Thursday's game). With his defense and baserunning, that might be good enough. Basically, Mike Cameron-lite with the chance that he could top out very Mike Cameron-like.
While all hitters are basically streaky, Cain is, to date anyway, awfully streaky. Since coming back from his early season injury, Lorenzo has pretty much been really hot or really cold:
- July 13-18: 9-19
- July 17-24: 7-22
- July 25-29: 1-16
- July 31-August 4: 10-22
- August 5-14: 3-24
- August 15-19: 6-17
- August 20-27: 3-27
- August 29-Sept 3: 5-21
- September 4-12: 13-34
We are also starting see Cain face teams for second and third times, which I think is particularly telling for a guy with some holes in a big swing. Cain, with the exception of Seattle, has actually fared well against teams he has previously faced.
Chicago has yet to figure out how to get Cain out. He got five hits in two games the first time they faced him, managed to get him to go 0-8 for the next, but in the two series since Cain has gone 10-29. The first time Cain faced the Twins, he collected four hits in a three game series, they then held him to a 2 for 10 the next time, but (again prior to Thursday's game) the third time out Lorenzo has four hits in two games. Cain collected four hits in his first series with Texas and four more in the next series against the Rangers.
All in all, that is very small, but positive sign that Cain might well be able to overcome the inherent long swing problems and be a positive contributor as a regular in center for Kansas City for at least the next few seasons. I doubt he will ever not be really streaky, but he might be good enough to manufacture enough good streaks to help the team moving forward.