- FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy -

The Return of Lorenzo Cain

It was supposed to be a breakout season for Lorenzo Cain, the 26-year old centerfielder acquired by the Royals as part of the return package for Zack Greinke. He was basically told that the centerfield job was his to lose during spring training and it was actually a little exciting watching him run away with it as he hit .371 with five home runs, 11 doubles, and five stolen bases. Not to mention, a 12.9% walk rate, something the Royals desperately hoped he would retain from his minor league numbers. He was slated to bat second in the order and was primed to be a serious fantasy asset this year.

But then the injury bug swooped in and bit poor Lorenzo in the groin after he went crashing into the wall during the first week of the season. He landed on the disabled list and then, to make matters worse, ended up tearing his hip flexor during his rehab stint which put him on the shelf for the rest of the first half. Some fantasy owners have been able to stash him on their DL this whole time, while others were just forced to cut bait and send him back to the player pool. Well, now as the second half is about to begin, you have your chance to run with Cain as he is back and ready to finish what he started.

If you’re looking for some outfield help and he’s out there on your waiver wire, Cain is definitely worth a look. The Royals will likely start him off easy and keep him hitting out of the seven or eight-hole to start — keep the pressure off and let him do his thing.  He’s got a little bit of pop in his bat and has good speed on the bases, so if he starts off strongly, there’s a good chance that Ned Yost starts to test him out in the two-hole, depending on the performance of Alcides Escobar. Obviously a move up in the order would boost his value, but baby steps are needed here. He appeared to be getting better during his rehab outing as he went from batting .208 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas for the first half of the session to .321 for Triple-A Omaha in the second. He dropped his strikeout rate, started taking some walks, and was just more productive overall. But while that is definitely encouraging, there’s no need to rush him with lofty expectations.

One caveat here with regard to the speed game which could be a little discouraging. Not only did Cain miss a few games towards the end of his rehab stint with sore legs, but he also never attempted a stolen base at any point. Obviously, early on in the rehab you don’t want to push it, but you would have liked to have seen him at least attempt a stolen base at some point — see what kind of a jump he gets, what kind of burst of speed he’s got right now, but nothing. It’s not certain if he was being tentative or if the coaches and trainers were just being cautious.

Now Cain’s return has more of an impact than just saying goodbye to Jarrod Dyson until September. His return also means that the promotion of Wil Myers, something everyone has been clamoring for, is on hold indefinitely. The team has already said that they will not bring Myers up unless he has the opportunity to play every day. With Cain taking over centerfield, Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur handling the corners and Jason Bourgeois holding down the fourth outfielder responsibilities, there’s just no room for Myers to play regularly, regardless of how well he is hitting in Omaha. Fantasy owners that have Myers stashed will simply have to wait patiently and hope that the team can find a way to pawn off Francoeur. The market for him right now is not strong, but perhaps when we’re a little closer to the trade deadline, some contending team will be looking for a right-handed bat to come off the bench. For now though, he will continue to patrol right field.

The Royals situation is definitely worth watching over the next month to see if they can recapture that spark we saw back in spring training. If they can all click as they did then you could find yourself with some strong fantasy performers for your second half run. If they don’t, then all you Myers owners will finally reap the benefits of stashing him away as the Royals would then become sellers on the market. Either way, there should be a good amount of second-half fantasy help coming out of Kansas City this year.