When Robinson Cano debuted as the Yankees second baseman in 2005, at the raw age of 22 years old, fans of the empire caught an extended glimpse of a player with the potential to help the team in a big way. His fielding initially stunk, erasing the slightly above average contribution made on the offensive front. Though his season produced no more than one tenth of a win above replacement level, it became clear that some experience could go a very long way.
In 2006, he reached that potential, hitting .342/.365/.525 with a .377 wOBA. Sure, Cano’s isolated patience could have been better and his .363 BABIP seemed sure to regress, but vastly improved offensive numbers coupled with a UZR twenty runs better than his rookie season led to the Yankees keystone cornerman posting +3.5 wins.
Things only improved the following season when Cano produced +5 wins thanks to a +11 UZR mark and offensive output similar to the year prior. Then 2008 happened. Cano’s UZR dropped from +11 to -8, and his offense of +15 to +20 runs nosedived to -10 runs. At just a half-win above replacement, Cano looked lost both at the plate and in the field. After BABIPs well above .300, Cano’s dropped to .286, leading many to suggest that he will once again experience success this season.
In fact, the ZiPS projection system called for a .349 wOBA that would place Cano very close to his solid 2007 campaign. Through 139 PA, Cano is hitting .321/.353/.519, with six dingers and a .376 wOBA. On top of that, his defense has been above average at +2 runs. In 31 games, Cano’s +1.1 wins above replacement have already doubled last season’s end product.
How will he perform from here on out? ZiPS feels confident in Cano’s .376 wOBA to begin the season and sees his true talent for the rest of the season in the .356 range. Should this come to fruition, Cano would end the season hitting .304/.341/.492, a career best 23 home runs, and a .360 wOBA. If he can produce at that level offensively and hover around the league average with the glove, the Yankees will have themselves a very valuable 26-yr old second baseman.