While we have yet to see the first swing of the bat of the 2012 season, conversations have already begun on who might be the frontrunner for the AL MVP. Yet, in a sport ruled by statistics, it is never too soon to make projections.
Enter Yankees second baseman, Robinson Cano.
During his seven years in pinstripes, Cano has climbed his way to being the league's dominant second baseman, with strong defensive abilities and powerful stats at the plate. Despite the Yankees employing some of the elite hitters of the league, Cano has separated himself as a consistent AL MVP contender.
Cano is already a favorite for the 2012 AL MVP among baseball critics and analysts. In fact, former Boston Red Sox manager and current ESPN analyst Terry Francona remarked yesterday that Robinson Cano would have an MVP-season and even boldly predicted that he would have a batting average of .370 or .380.
"You can't ask for a more valuable fantasy second baseman than Cano, who, in seven big league seasons to date, has batted better than .300 five times, hit 25-plus homers three times and driven in 100-plus runs twice.
"He's coming off a career year, is 29 years old and has even forced himself into the discussion for a heart-of-the-lineup spot with one of the game's most productive lineups in one of the most hitter-friendly venues in baseball. Cano might by all rights steal the cleanup role from the aging, injury-prone Alex Rodriguez; in that event he'd be hitting behind three players who had a .340 on-base percentage or better in 2011 (Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira).
"Expect Cano to contend for his position's lead in every prominent Rotisserie category except stolen bases. Hey, we can't have it all."
ESPN projects Cano to average .306, hit 28 home runs, have 111 RBIs, earn 103 runs, steal 6 times, draw 41 walks, have a .355 OBP, have a slugging percentage of .527 and have an OPS of .882.
These projected numbers have Cano leading the MLB's second basemen and are ranked seventh overall in the MLB for batting.
However, ESPN's projected numbers may not be enough to earn the MVP award. Because the Yankees have such a strong offense with power hitters such as Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez in their starting lineup, Cano will have to up his offense and increase his stats to standout from the rest of the pack.
Cano had a solid Spring Training this year, batting .246 and earning 15 RBIs. If the Yankee fanbase has learned anything from watching Robinson Cano since his debut in May of 2005, it is that Cano consistently improves his game every season and that he is the Yankee to watch.