Rookie Review: Lorenzo Cain
I've received some questions lately about Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain. He's a very interesting player, so let's take a look at his past, his present, and his possible future.
Cain was drafted by the Brewers in the 17th round in 2004, then signed as a draft-and-follow in '05 out of Tallahassee Community College in Florida. He's been excellent at times, but somewhat erratic. Here is the comment I wrote about him in the 2010 book.
Lorenzo Cain, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-2 WT: 185 DOB: April 13, 1986
2006: Grade C+; 2007: Grade B-; 2008: Grade C+; 2009: Grade B-.
Lorenzo Cain has tremendous tools, and at times he flashes good skills to go with them. I was somewhat optimistic about his chances to develop entering 2009, but his season was a disaster, due to an April knee injury. He returned to the field in late June, and I got to see a couple of his rehab outings for Wisconsin. He didn't look right; he was either still in pain, or playing like he was afraid of the pain returning. His swing was fouled up, and he wasn't running with his normal speed. The knee got better by the end of the year, and Cain looked more like his normal self in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .242/.375/.303. . .still not very good, but his swing looked better and at least he was controlling the strike zone again. When healthy, Cain is very fast, has surprising power, will draw an occasional walk, and presents as an excellent defensive outfielder. He needs 400 at-bats in Triple-A to refine his swing. As you can see from the list above, Cain's grade has been yo-yoing between B- and C+ for four years. It's back down to Grade C+ again, which still assumes some optimism about his offensive development.
Cain hit .324/.409/.434 with 21 steals in 23 attempts over 244 at-bats for Double-A Huntsville this year, followed by a .299/.384/.425 mark with five steals in six attempts over 87 at-bats for Triple-A Nashville. He saw considerable playing time for the Brewers, hitting .306/.348/.415 with seven steals in eight attempts, nine walks with 28 strikeouts in 147 at-bats.
I wrote that he needed another 400 at-bats in the minors to work out his swing and shake the injury rust off. He ended up getting 331, and looked pretty good in the majors. His plate discipline still needs some work, but his walk rate in the minors was fine, and with more experience I think it will increase in the majors as well.
He hit just three homers in the minors this year and has never been a big home run guy, but he's good for doubles and triples, and I do think he'll develop more pop as he matures. He uses his speed very well, on the bases as well as the outfield, where he's a very strong defender.
I don't expect Cain to hit .300+ every year, but I can see him as a consistent .270-.290 hitter with some seasons that get beyond that. If he boosts is isolated patience a bit, maintains his polish on the bases, his offensive and defensive skills will make him quite valuable.