Aug 8, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) connects for a double in the first inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Royals Scouting Report: Lorenzo Cain


 

For a primer on the 20-80 scouting scale, check out Kevin Goldstein’s article at Baseball Prospectus. When listening to scouts, baseball front office personnel, writers, or random baseball guys, the 20-80 scouting scale eventually comes up. It’s always a good idea to have knowledge of how players are performing according to this scale so that baseball conversations have a common reference point.

One easy tip: when a player is a 60 hitter, it means he’s a .300 hitter. A .300 hitter is really good, right? Extrapolate that to other areas and any time you see a 60 grade, know that the player is pretty darn good at that thing.

Other Kansas City Royals scouting reports from KC Kingdom, check out

Salvador Perez

Eric Hosmer

Emilio Bonifacio

Mike Moustakas

Alcides Escobar

Alex Gordon

Norichika Aoki

Sometimes it’s difficult putting some low grades on Lorenzo Cain because he looks like he’ll be a better hitter than he’s shown. However, his poor health over the past two seasons has been a detriment to either his playing time, his efficacy or both. The real Lorenzo Cain is hidden somewhere underneath strained obliques, hip-flexor tears, hamstring pulls, hand twinges, and groin injuries.

He showed promise in a full season between the minors and majors in 2011, where he hit .310/.377/.489 in 134 games. He showed surprising pop, hitting 16 home runs. He is extremely athletic and only when people see him in person, do they realize that he poses an imposing figure at 6’2″, 205.

Here are Lorenzo Cain’s scouting grades

Hit: 55

So far in his career, Cain has been the very definition of a “50-hitter.” His career batting average is .266, he doesn’t have elite bat-on-ball skills, he has a below average walk rate and an average K-rate,  However, he does have a good two strike approach and puts the ball in play with runners on base. He has a nice high line-drive rate. He goes easy with pitches, sending them the other way when necessary.

His swing looks good. There just seems to be a little something extra that may have been suppressed by the endless slew of injuries. Eventually, we’ll have to quit saying, “if Cain stays healthy, he could…” and just accept him as an injury-prone, glove-first outfielder. Today is not that day.

Power: 45

Cain looks like he should have more power than he does. He has shown the ability to put an ISO of over .150 (2012, minors), but has only hit 12 home runs in 867 PA. Not great. He consistently puts up an above average line drive percentage, so don’t be surprised if he shows a sudden surge of extra base power like he did at the beginning of 2013. In the end, though, home runs probably will not be a large part of his game.

Fielding: 70

The Royals probably have more 70-grade fielder than any other team. It’s hard to imagine anyone being better in the outfield than Cain was in 2013. When he was healthy, he was similarly sterling in 2012. He makes seemingly impossible plays and won ESPN’s defensive player of the month last July. He reads the ball well off the bat and makes good jumps on flyballs. His speed is as fast as it gets when he hits full stride. He’s an out machine in center.

The reason he’s not an “all-time” great in center field is because he has some issues with line drives. He also sometimes rushes throws and bobbles the ball, which allows the occasional extra base if the runner is paying attention.

Arm: 60

Cain’s arm isn’t particularly strong, but it’s deadly accurate. He may not be able to keep up with Alex Gordon on assists, but never fails to hit the cutoff man. Because the cutoff man is usually Alcides Escobar, that certainly increases the chances of an assist. Escobar has a good arm. If runners make mistakes on the basepaths, Cain will get them. He has more kills than the average center fielder (3.5% compared to lg avg 1.7%) and baserunners should be aware of that.

Speed: 65

His speed is excellent when playing the field. It’s nothing special on the basepaths. He sometimes makes unsound baserunning decisions. He gets picked off once a year or so. He gets thrown out about 1/3 of the time on steal attempts. He runs into outs a couple times per year by trying to stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples. Most of the time he doesn’t even attempt steals (only 20 in 2013).

He doesn’t have the high BAbip of most speedsters. Essentially, he’s fast, but it does nothing to help his baserunning…which would not normally knock down his pure “speed” rating, but what good is evaluating his speed if you don’t consider its usefulness?

Overall, Lorenzo Cain would be a respectable center fielder for most clubs. His glove makes him one of the most valuable (if not the most valuable) defenders at the position in the league. If his bat would pick up just slightly, like it should have but hasn’t, he’d be an easy All-Star. He rounds out one of the more balanced outfields in baseball right now, with Norichika Aoki and Alex Gordon.

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