The Kansas City Royals needed a Super Man athlete to field the largest outfield in the major leagues by square footage. They got that guy when they traded for Lorenzo Cain, who was the best center fielder of the 2010s.
The Kansas City Royals traded their best pitcher at the beginning of the decade and got a Super Man caliber player who hit consistently in the clutch, made spectacular diving catches, and ran the bases like a speeding locomotive. Lorenzo Cain was our superman at center field position for the Royals in the 2010s.
Lorenzo Cain was drafted in the 17th round of the 2004 amateur draft out of the Madison County High School (Florida) by the Milwaukee Brewers. Cain didn’t debut in the major leagues until July 2010, but throughout his time in the minors he displayed an ability to play excellent defense in center field, run the bases exceptionally well, and hit consistently around .280 average.
Cain’s debut 2010 season saw him hit .306/.348/.415 with 13 extra base hits and seven stolen bases in four games, making him an excellent trade target. Lorenzo Cain came to the Kansas City Royals in the 2010 offseason along with Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, and Jeremy Jeffress for Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt.
Cain took a little bit of time to settle in as the Royals premier center fielder, spending much of 2011 season at AAA following the trade. He also spent some more time in the minors during the 2012 season, before becoming the full-time center fielder in 2013.
Cain’s ability to play defense and cover an exceptional amount of ground won him the job and his development into an excellent offensive player showed in 2014 when he hit over a .300 average for the season.
Cain put up an excellent statistical line both offensively and defensively for center fielders in the AL for the decade.
- 713 games
- 56 HRs
- 161 extra base hits
- 20.4 WAR
- .984 fielding percentage with 43.9 RngR (led Royals for decade)
During the decade, Cain was an All-Star only once with the Royals in 2015, 3x Wilson Defensive Player (2012 – 2014), ALCS MVP (2014), and finished third in the AL MVP voting in 2015. If not for Mike Trout, he was arguably the best center fielder in the American League during the decade. It was a shame Cain never won a gold glove during his time in Kansas City, but he was consistently a finalist during his run in a Royals uniform.
Cain led the American League in outfield putouts in 2017, range factor in center field in (2015 and 2017), and was ranked in the top five for Total Zone Runs in 2013 and 2014. Cain’s best year came in 2015 when he hit .307/.361/.477 with 16 HRs, 34 2Bs, 6 3Bs with 28 SBs, setting his career highs for batting average, slugging percentage, homeruns, and extra base hits. He was the offensive leader in the lineup for the Royals 2015 World Series championship run.
In a decade filled with clutch hits and defensive highlights, picking Cain’s most memorable moment is tough. My selection has to be his fantastic base running in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015.
After the Blue Jays tied the game in the top of the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 2015 ALCS, Lorenzo Cain led off the inning by getting on-base. Eric Hosmer came up to the plate and with a 2-2 count, Hosmer hit a line-drive down the right field line.
Jose Bautista took an excellent angle on the ball and cut it off with a tremendous throw to second base to limit Hosmer to a single, but Cain was running, no – Cain was flying. The Royals center fielder displayed his ability to stretch for an extra base quite often during the 2015 and this was the opportune time to steal back the lead late in the game.
Cain’s decision to keep racing around the bases even shocked Joe Buck, who was announcing the game, and Cain got Buck to break his usually monotone delivery giving us the memorable line “He Can Fly!”.
Watching Cain run the bases was a treat for me as a fan. He was aggressive and rarely made a poor decision. His hustle always paid off with his exceptional talent to fly around the base-paths once he hit full stride.
Watching Cain score from first base on this hit still gives me goosebumps. It is one of the best base running plays of the decade in the Major Leagues and the tension it broke was tremendous for Royals fans, who were noticeably more nervous after the top of the eighth inning events and rain delay.
Lorenzo Cain deserved his large contract in free agency following the 2017 season, returning to the Milwaukee Brewers for five years/$80 million. The draft pick compensation for Cain’s departure netted the Kansas City Royals the #34 pick in the 2018 amateur draft, which the Royals used to select University of Virgina pitcher Daniel Lynch.
After two seasons in the Royals farm system and an eye opening 2019 Arizona Fall League performance, Lynch appears to have major star power potential with his elite pitching arsenal.
Keep up as we’ll discuss the right fielder of the decade in my next article.