Player Background

Lorenzo Cain was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 17th round of the 2004 draft. He spent part of six seasons in the minors before making his major-league debut in 2010. Over those six years he showed the ability to hit for a solid average, and he flashed the potential to steal 20+ bases (his high was 46 in 2006).

Following the 2010 season, he was shipped to the Royals along with a package of prospects for Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt. Cain joined a young core of Royals players who would form the foundation of the 2015 World Series champions. Since 2013, he’s played in at least 100 games for Kansas City, but as of now he’ll become a free agent following this season.

The 2015 season was easily Cain’s best to date. Over the course of 140 games he hit .307/.361/.477 with 16 HR, 101 R, 72 RBI, and 28 SB. Those stats made him one of the most productive outfielders in fantasy baseball. Prior to the 2016 season he slotted in the four-star tier of Baseball Prospectus’ preseason outfield rankings.

What Went Right in 2016?

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much that went right for Cain last year. His walk rate did hit a three-year high (7.1 percent), and his strikeout rate remained under 20 percent for the second straight season. In limited playing time, he still racked up double-digit steals, and with a few more games he would have hit 10+ homeruns for the second straight year.

Even though Cain’s batting average was down compared to the two previous seasons, he was still able to give owners some positive value in that category. His penchant for running an unusually high BABIP continued (.341). This marked the third straight season it remained north of .340. He’s shown an ability to reach base on balls in play at an above average rate compared to other major leaguers.

If nothing else, at least he had an exciting season with Salvador Perez on Instagram (as was noted by Craig Brown in the Baseball Prospectus Annual).

What Went Wrong in 2016?

Injuries were a thorn in Cain’s side (more like his legs and wrist) for most of the second half. He hit the 15-day DL at the end of June with a strained hamstring, and he returned only to suffer a wrist sprain in August. Cain was limited to just 30 games in the second half, and 103 for the entire season.

A quick look at Cain’s TAv totals from the past four seasons highlights a troubling trend. If you compare his past four seasons of production, then 2015 stands out as an outlier. His total production from last year was much more in line with what he had done in 2013 and 2014, leaving owners to wonder if Cain’s 2015 breakout was simply an anomaly.











Based on his track record, it would be foolish for owners to go into 2017 expecting numbers like Cain’s 2015 performance. That’s not to say he can’t be valuable, but since 2012 he’s been right around a league average hitter by OPS+. That’s still valuable production given his ability to steal 20+ bases, but it’s just not the value owners thought they might be getting when they drafted him a year ago.

2017 Projections

















There are a few things worth noting about Cain’s PECOTA projections for 2017. The first issue is that he’s pegged for 600+ PA. He’s only cracked that total once in his major-league career, and he’s only gone north of 500 PA twice. If you draft him, you need to have some contingency plan in place in case he gets injured (especially given his age), and owners will want to recognize that they could be without Cain for a decent stretch of time at some point during the season.

Still, the type of production Cain could give fantasy owners makes him worth a long look in your draft. You should be able to acquire him at a nice discount from his price a year ago. That potential production, coupled with a falling ADP, made Cain Mike Gianella’s “value pick” in the four-star tier of BP’s preseason outfield rankings for this season.

Last year, only 18 players hit 10+ home runs and stole 20+ bases. If Cain stays on the field for 140 games, he’s a pretty safe bet to achieve those totals. If you add to this mix a .300 batting average, then that list from last season shrinks to six players (Betts, Trout, Altuve, Segura, Trea Turner, and Jose Ramirez). That’s a pretty special class of player to be in. While it’s far from a sure thing, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Cain in 2017.

The Great Beyond

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about Cain’s value beyond 2017. He’ll turn 31 at the start of this season, and it’s likely that his most effective days on the base paths are behind him. Unless he begins to hit for more power, his declining stolen base totals could sharply decrease his value in the coming years.

If you’re in a re-draft league, he’s worth investing in this season to see if he can find that 2015 magic again. If you’re in a dynasty league, the issues surrounding Cain get a little riskier. If he does begin the season with solid production, it might be time to think about moving him. You could potentially get a nice piece or two for down the road while maximizing value when it might be at its highest. Cain’s best days might be behind him, but if he can put together a solid few months (or season) he’s still got value left in the tank for fantasy owners.

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Cain left the Brewers with Odorizzi (and Alcides Escobar and Jeremy Jeffress) in a trade for Yuniesky Betancourt and Zack Greinke.
Thanks for catching that. Should be updated.
As a Royals fan, there is always one question you have to ask about LoCain and that is how many games will he play/ When he plays, he is a catalyst that makes everyone better. The Royals season hinges on his health. So far, that has caused me to stay away from him on my fantasy team. Excellent article.
Cain is one of those players that is pretty much impossible to trade for any value in dynasty. Santana too who you've followed with. But both are players that drive your team when they're on