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Lorenzo Cain and the Royals Lineup: Trade Aftershocks

With Melky Cabrera being trade from the Royals to the Giants for Jonathan Sanchez, Lorenzo Cain became the everyday center fielder for the Royals. His fantasy value has skyrocketed with this move.

Lorenzo was traded to the Royals from the Brewers as part of the Zack Greinke trade. With the 2010 Brewers, he played in 43 games hitting .306 with 1 HR and 7 SBs. Besides, 6 games played with the Royals at the end of the season as a August call up, he has spent the rest of his career in the minors.

Early in his minor league career, he had a K% around 25%. In 2010, the level dropped below 20% and has not gone above that point since then. It will be key for him to keep his K% low because he has not shown any power until 2011 in AAA, when he hit 16 home runs.

One of Cain’s best fantasy attributes is stealing bases. He averaged nearly 20 SBs a season in the minors. This trend will continue in the majors for a couple of reasons.

1. No matter where he his in the lineup, he will have the green light from manager Ned Yost. The Royals got 26 steals from Jeff Francoeur last season. Anyone and everyone attempts steals for the Royals.

2. He could be batting lead off on opening day. Dayton Moore has stated that he would like a more traditional lead off man (fast with some on base skills) than Alex Gordon (who will probably be moved to the 2nd spot in the lineup). If he gets the lead off spot, the chances for SB goes up substantially.

Besides increase SB chances, being the lead off hitter will mean that he has more of a chance to accumulate runs. With Gordon, Hosmer and Butler hitting after him, he will get a plenty of Run opportunities. Gordon and Cabrera hit 1st and 2nd this last season and each scored over 100 runs.

For 2012, I see Cain hitting around a .280 to .300 AVG, 5 to 10 HRs, 70 to 100 Runs, and 10 to 35 SBs. The upper bounds of these numbers look nice, but the lower numbers seem possible also.

The other player’s fantasy value affected most by the move is Alex Gordon. He will lose about 20 PA during the season by hitting 2nd vice 1st. Also he will see a shift from Runs to more RBI chances by moving off the lead off spot. Finally, I would expect his SBs to take a bit of hit.

The Royals got a career year out of Melky Cabrera in 2011. His production will be missed by those hitting after him. I don’t expect Cain to duplicate Mekly’s 2011 production, so the other Royals hitters may see a drop in Run or RBI opportunities.

When the smoke clears out of this trade, the real winner in the Cabrera for Sanchez trade will be Lorenzo Cain. He looks to have inherited the center field job and lead off spot for the Royals which could be help inflate his fantasy value.