What is not so obvious, however, is exactly how highly he should be drafted or, more specifically, should he be the first middle infielder to be selected in 2012 fantasy drafts?
In other words, who is a better selection—Cano or Troy Tulowitzki?
I know the popular belief is Tulowitzki, whom many see among the top picks in baseball heading into the season. However, when you break things down, it may not be quite that simple.
As the old adage goes, you can’t win your league in the first round, but you very well could lose it. So, before we jump to conclusions, let’s take a look at who the better selection is.
Robinson Cano, Second Baseman, New York Yankees
The Case For Him—As we talked about when discussing him as a potential first-round target, the consistency and opportunity is nearly second to none. When you select Cano, you almost know exactly what you are going to get.
Just look at his numbers over the past three seasons:
- 2009—.320, 25 HR, 85 RBI, 103 R, 5 SB
- 2010—.319, 29 HR, 109 RBI, 103 R, 3 SB
- 2011—.302, 28 HR, 118 RBI, 104 R, 8 SB
In other words, you can almost lock him in for .310/25/110/100, with the potential for even more than that. He has settled into the middle of one of the deepest batting orders in the game.
Would it surprise anyone if he hits cleanup for the bulk of the year, meaning ample opportunities to both drive in and score runs?
There are few players who have the floor of Cano, and the ceiling is so much more. While he is not going to produce like Albert Pujols or Jose Bautista, he is going to continue to be one of the best hitters in the game.
He also is going to play every day, as he has played in at least 159 games (597 AB or more) every season since 2007.
The Case Against Him—He doesn’t run much? That’s about the only thing you can say about the 29-year old, isn’t it?
Troy Tulowitzki, Shortstop, Colorado Rockies
The case for him—He has become the premier shortstop in the game, giving you an advantage over the rest of the field. Last season, he hit .302 with 30 HR, 105 RBI and 81 R. It’s the third consecutive season that he has driven in at least 92 runs and hit at least .297 or better.
He also has shown the potential to steal bases, having swiped as many as 20 in a season. If he can regain that form, he really is the total package, isn’t he?
Of course, it is no guarantee, as he has only done that once, and he stole 11 bases in ’10 and nine in ’11. That’s not much of an advantage over Cano.
However, his value doesn’t come from his speed (though it would be nice). Just look how he compares in the power departments against other shortstops:
- Home runs—Only four shortstops hit more than 20 HR in ’11, and the only other person with more than 25 was J.J. Hardy (who also hit 30)
- RBI—Only four shortstops had at least 80 RBI in ’11, with the second best being Asdrubal Cabrera with 92
The case against him—First of all, there's the statistical problem, as only twice in his career has he surpassed 100 runs scored.
While bringing Michael Cuddyer in should help him in that regard, he is also far from a lock to reach that mark. He doesn’t have the same type of talent following him in the lineup that Cano has.
The other problem is much more glaring, and that is the injury concern. Tulowitzki has played in more than 150 games in a season just twice in his career and twice has been held to 122 games or fewer.
In the past four seasons the most games he’s played in is 151. The fact that it is almost a given that he misses time is a major knock against him.
When you start looking at these two players, there is a lot to like about both of them.
Yes, Tulowitzki may have a little bit of an advantage in the power department, though it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cano reach into the low 30s as well.
Cano likely has the advantage in the average, run and RBI departments, though those again should be extremely similar.
Could Tulowitzki steal a few more bases? Sure, but it isn’t going to be enough.
The numbers are going to be close, and their ceilings are similar, but what distinguishes the two for me is the floor. We basically know what Cano is going to do, and those numbers are going to be special.
With Tulowitzki, would it be a major surprise to see him miss a bulk of time and severely under-perform?
That fact is more than enough for me. I may be in the minority, but if I am left with a decision between the two, I am going to be selecting Cano every time.
What about you? Which player would you select for 2012? Why?
Make sure to check out our other 2012 first-round analysis: