It’s difficult not to be seduced by Robinson Cano. He was on a Hall of Fame trajectory through the end of the 2017 season. And after a miserable start to 2019, he hit like what his supporters hoped he would in the final 25 games of the season. In that stretch, he posted a .338/409/.600 line in 93 PA. Imagine having that guy in the lineup over an entire year, to go along with the other offensive weapons the club has. One could have visions of the Mets having a 900-run season.
But then reality calls.
What’s the likelihood that at age 37, playing second base, that Cano can put up that type of production over 150 games? Through last year’s injuries and 2018’s suspension, Cano hasn’t played 150 games since 2017. And only three players in MLB history have played 150 games at second base at age 37, none since Frank White did the trick in 1988. White’s batting line that year? He put up a .596 OPS and a 64 wRC+.
Jeff Kent misses our arbitrary cutoff by one game and he remains the sliver of hope among the 37 year olds in the post-integration era. You have Kent with a 3.6 fWAR and no one else who played the majority of their games at second base putting up an fWAR over 2.5 at that age. Somehow, Marco Scutaro put up a 2.5 fWAR in 2013 for the Giant while amassing 127 games and 547 PA. For what it’s worth, Scutaro played five games the following year and then his career was over.
Cano has two things going for him. One, as his closing stretch last year indicates, he’s still not helpless against MLB pitching. And perhaps more importantly, he has the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval from the GM. Last year, we saw Cano gifted the chance to play every day and bat third when most of us would have been giving him days off and moving down in the lineup. You have to think that type of preferential treatment would have continued had Carlos Beltran been the team’s manager.
But what happens if the Mets do end up giving the job to an old-school manager with a little more clout? Would, say, Buck Showalter have continued to utilize Cano like the Mets did in 2019? As of this writing, with the new manager yet to be declared, that’s perhaps the biggest wild card when trying to subjectively forecast Cano in 2019.
Let’s check in with the computer forecasts. We have a new one this week, with FanGraphs posting the ATC projections. So, let’s see our four objective predictions for Cano:
ATC – 512 PA, .271/.330/.439, 17 HR, 64 RBIs
Marcel – 446 PA, .264/.324/.437, 15 HR, 55 RBIs
Steamer – 565 PA, .271/.327/.448, 20 HR, 74 RBIs
ZiPS – 377 PA, .260/.316/.405, 9 HR, 39 RBIs
Wow, that’s a little bit different from last year, when the computer models all were very much in lock step with one another. This time we have ATC and Steamer being fairly similar but Marcel and ZiPS being much more bearish, especially in terms of playing time. The Steamer forecast comes with an fWAR projection, too. That system sees Cano as essentially a league-average performer, as they have him putting up a 1.9 fWAR. It seems safe to say that Marcel and ZiPS would be short of that total.
Unless Cano has injuries at a worse level than last season – not an unreasonable position to take – or they hire a Showalter-type as manager, this seems less likely, it’s hard for me to imagine playing time like ZiPS forecasts. With that thought in mind, here’s my totally subjective prediction for Cano in 2020:
You’ll have more credibility if you chime in now with what you think Cano will do this year. Next up to undergo the forecast microscope will be Noah Syndergaard.