OFFENSIVE PROSPECT OF THE YEAR: '04
To be truthful, going into the process of choosing this award, I thought there were only two contenders worth considering. In my mind this award was going to clearly be a battle between Melky Cabrera and Eric Duncan, keeping in mind that the award should go to the offensive prospect who had the best year in my opinion. Then when I went into the process of analyzing the performances I realized that there was another viable contender. Not only was he a viable contender, he legitimately deserved the award, so without further ado I present the MYBOPotY:
Robinson Cano, 2B, 21, AA Trenton/AAA Columbus
- AA: 292/.301/39.8%/.195/12.7/1:1.7/2/33%(AB/BA/XBH%/IsoP/AB:UiBB/UiBB:K/SB/SB%)
- AAA: 216/.259/30.4%/.144/12.7/1:1.6/0/0%
Duncan, Cabrera, etc. lovers, please hear me out. Detractors of Cano's year will point out several valid concerns that I agree with. The most obvious would be that he started out on fire, posting an OPS in the 1.000 range into May and then cooled off considerably. While it would have been great for Cano to keep that pace up, and if he had done it he would be arguably a top 10 prospect in baseball, it was unrealistic. What is important is to look at what he DID manage to do. After spending the end of May through the early portions of mid-June tailing off Cano found his game and was able to raise his average from .285 to .301 in his final week at AA. A huge part of sorting through prospects is finding players who make adjustments and crediting them for that adjustment. Cano started out on fire and the league adjusted to him, making him a non-factor in the AA lineup for some time until he was able to re-adjust to the league. To be cautious, it should still be noted that that final adjustment by Cano was in a very small sample size.
The other point that is often made against him is that in addition to tailing off in comparison to how he started his '04 AA stint, he also tailed off in AAA. I don't think it's as simple as that. As the numbers cited above show Cano maintained the same control of the strike zone, which is very important, but lost a lot of his power and BA. Digging further one will see that it's not as simple as that. The lost power that Cano experienced was in terms of doubles and triples as he actually increased his home run rate from once every 41.7 AA at bats to once every 36 AAA at bats. Meanwhile his doubles and triples per at bat went from once every 10.4 AA at bats to once every 19.6 AAA at bats. So, what happened here?
As Baseball Prospectus
and others have shown, aspects of the game where the defense comes into play, singles, doubles, and triples in this case, are prone to fluctuation. In other words, noting Cano's improved over-the-fence power and maintained plate discipline/patience it becomes apparent that perhaps some of his decline was hitting in front of better defense's rather than through some fault of his own. While I will give him the benefit of the doubt on this, readers of the site who were regular attendees at Clippers' games can share observations on whether or not he seemed to be a victim of the "ol' attem ball" since that is what the statistical evidence seems to point to.
The other negative to consider with Cano's AAA performance is that he started off incredibly hot, going 8 for his first 10 and then seemed lost for a long period, which once again points to him being figured out by a league's pitchers. Then, just like in AA, he closed his stint on a brief hot streak that points to a possible readjustment on his part; including the playoffs, Cano was 10 for his last 21.
As evidenced by my feelings about the most glaring negatives of Robinson Cano's game, I do like him as a prospect. He was always a favorite of mine for his 2002 season and coming into this year I promised to be more positive about him if "he corrects either the plate discipline or power 'problems'". Apparently, he has and his reward for that is the 2004 MYBOPotY.
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