A Look at Robinson Cano
The Yankees farm system is pretty thin (though it is showing signs of improvement). Infielder Robinson Cano is their best guy at the upper levels, and per reader requests, let's take a look at him.
Cano was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2001. While the Yankees have drafted poorly in recent years, their Latin American operation remains fairly productive. Cano went to the Gulf Coast League for his pro debut, and did not play particularly well, hitting .230/.330/.364 in 57 games. Moving up to the full-season Sally League in 2002, he improved significantly, boosting his numbers to .276/.321/.445 and hitting 14 homers. 2003 was a split season: .276/.313/.377 in 90 games for Class A Tampa, then .280/.341/.366 in 46 games for Double-A Trenton. Cano split '04 again, hitting .301/.345/.497 in 74 games for Trenton, then .259/.316/.403 in 61 games for Triple-A Columbus. He's off to a hot start at Columbus this year: 12-for-34 with 3 homers in his first 8 games.
Cano is 22 years old. A left-handed hitter, he's shown steady development up the ladder, and has handled himself well in the upper minors at a young age. Scouts say he has above-average bat speed, and should be able to hit for average with plenty of doubles at the major league level. The main question about his bat is how much home run power he will develop. His home run totals the last three years are 15, 6, and 13. He seems to be whacking the ball for power quite well so far this season, granted the perils of small sample size. I know that some scouts project him to be a 20+ homer guy with maturity, while others believe he will settle into the 12-15 range.
His plate discipline is average at this point, although his strikeout rate is reasonably low. I could see him hitting anywhere from .250 to .300 at the Major League level; he is young enough on the age curve to do that, but he'll have to keep working the zone well for it to happen.
One team that considered trading for Cano last summer decided that he would be a fine hitter, but that his glove was going to be a serious problem; the trade fell through for this reason. Cano has enough arm strength for third base, but his range is a serious question. Yankee sources say that his range will be at least average, and that he can handle either third base or second base with no problem. Sources from other clubs disagree; one told me that Cano would be a first baseman by the time he was 27, and that his bat wouldn't be good enough for him to start at that position. I haven't seen Cano enough myself to know which opinion about his range is the correct one, but the doubts among other clubs have been strong enough to hurt his trade value.
In my book this year, I gave Cano a Grade B-, noting that he "is young enough to improve his offense quite a bit more, but it is unclear where exactly he will fit on the diamond." I still think that's a fair assessment.