MLB
July 22, 2012 posted by Chuck Anderson

Position Battles – Kansas City Center Field

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Lorenzo Cain, OF, Kansas City Royals

Lorenzo Cain missed half the year with a torn hip flexor and in the meantime some interesting options surfaced for the Royals to use in center field.  Speed merchants Jarrod Dyson and Jason Bourgeois held the position in Cain’s absence.  Meanwhile super-elite hitting prospect Wil Myers is playing center, not right in Triple-A.

Cain returned to action on July 13 and started seven games in center, one in right.  Manager Ned Yost stated “I imagine Lorenzo will play five days a week” and so far is sticking to it.  He does not have much game time in the majors, but is 26 years old so his prime is near.  He has an appealing fantasy skill set, notching sixteen homers and steals in his last notable minor league season.

He is off to a strong start, hitting .326/.340/.522.  He has two home runs since coming off the DL.  His strikeout rate is trending down too, although plate discipline is not a strength.  Above average chase rates lead to a 5.2% career BB%.  Pitchers throw Cain sliders on 20.3% of offerings, a rate only matched by twelve of 156 qualified hitters.  His whiff rate on well-located sliders reveals a weakness that will continue to be attacked.  He has not attempted to steal yet, but any team needing a well-rounded outfielder should take a shot on him.  He is owned in 15% of Yahoo leagues as of Sunday morning.

Dyson’s playing time has taken a large hit.  He was an everyday player, but has only started three of the last ten.  He does not have as many skills as Cain with just one major league home run, a .082 career ISO, and 3.15 GB/FB ratio.  He boosted his contact rate from 81.4% to 88.7% this year but does just not have enough power to be an effective hitter.  He is a better base stealer, with a 37/5 career success rate and seventeen steals in 2012.  That places him seventeenth in the majors and sixth in the American League.  He will steal enough to be useful in deep AL leagues, and has entered three games since July 13 as a pinch runner.

After not starting since July 6 Bourgeois was optioned to Triple-A on July 17.  He has a puzzling 3/3 SB/CS ratio this year, but it is hard to believe that he lost the speed that garnered him 31 steals in 252 plate appearances last year.  He has no clear path to playing time, though, and is a trade candidate as the deadline approaches.

Wil Myers has 28 home runs and a 1.042 OPS in the high minors this year, and is one of the very best hitting prospects in baseball.  He is playing plenty of center field in Omaha and the team seems to think he can handle the position for now before settling in right in the near future.  It makes sense for Kansas City to see what they have in Cain before pushing him aside so do not expect Myers in the majors before September.

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