After making a run at the MVP award last season, Robinson Cano came into this season with sky-high expectations. He’s been very good, but he’s played a tick below last year’s production. If there’s any disappointment in Cano’s performance, it’s only because of the expectation coming into this season.
Through significant chunks of the season’s first half, Cano has reverted to the free-swinging approach that he seemed to keep under control last season. His strikeouts are up slightly, and his walks are down significantly. Otherwise, Cano has been roughly the same player he was last season, on pace for roughly the same power numbers and the same sort of run production. His defense seemed spotty in the first month or so, but that’s been much better lately.
Cano is never going to be a Nick Swisher or Brett Gardner type of hitter. He swings. That’s what he does. He’s acknowledged a need to be more selective, but he doesn’t want to lose the aggressiveness that makes a dynamic hitter. Last year he found a great balance between selective and aggressive. This year, that balance has come and gone. If he finds it again in the second half, don’t rule him out as the Yankees best hitter down the stretch.
Kevin Russo got his season turned around in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Corban Joseph has been his typically productive self in Trenton – he’s been especially good against right-handed pitching and seems to hit every year – and Kelvin Castro has been a pleasant surprise in Tampa. The Yankees disappointment at second base has to be that David Adams took longer than expected to get healthy (he’s finally playing again) and that Anderson Feliz has struggled in Charleston (he seemed primed for a breakout season). The name to watch now is Angelo Gumbs, last year’s second-round pick who’s playing second for Staten Island.
Can Cano pick up the slack for the next month?
When Alex Rodriguez went on the disabled list late last season, Cano had 15 RBI in the 14 games without A-Rod. It wasn’t that he necessarily hit better than he had all season – most of his numbers were actually a little worse – but he was productive enough to pick up some of the slack. The Yankees might need him to find a way to do something similar while Rodriguez is out again for the next month or so.
The Yankees have club options for 2012 and 2013, and right now it looks like a no-brainer to exercise them. Of all the young players on the big league roster and all the talented prospects in the minors, no one is better positioned to be a career-long Yankee than Cano.
Associated Press photo