Tagged: Reegie Corona

Despite Criticism, Cano Remains Second To None

We have reached the midpoint of the 2011 season for the New York Yankees. Despite the pundits dire predictions about their so-called “suspect” starting rotation, they have the second-best record in baseball and the best record in the American League. They finished the first half on a seven-game winning streak and they were 30-12 (.714) from May 17 to July 2, the best record in baseball. Now it is time to hand out our annual report cards for the players who built that record. 

SECOND BASE – ROBINSON CANO (,292 BA, 14 HRS, 54 RBIs)

After Robinson Cano’s breakout season of 2010, it was hard to imagine how the 28-year-old second baseman could top it. He hit a team-best .319 with 29 home runs and 109 RBIs. He won both the Silver Slugger Award and a Gold Glove at his position.

How do you top that?

As Cano has witnessed in the team’s first 81 games. You don’t really.

Cano, however, remains the best hitter on the Yankees and the best second baseman in baseball. His first half pretty much proved it and he was voted to start his second straight All-Star Game. All this despite the fact his season was not quite as good as his season in 2010.

The funny thing about Cano is that he is still a superstar that is defining himself even though he is in his seventh season. Those batting titles he was predicted to win have not materialized. His fielding is still wonderful and effortless but fans and critics say he can do more. It is not easy to have all that talent and be able to shape it into what other people think it should be. Cano just seems to be content letting his bat and glove do the shaping and not worry about what people are thinking.

If you double his first half home run and RBI numbers, Cano is right in line with his 2010 numbers. His batting average is 16 points lower than 2010 but only 11 below his career .303 average. It is not hard to imagine that as the warm summer months unfold, Cano’s bat will catch fire as well. He has always been a better second-half hitter. There is nothing to suggest it won’t be the case this season.

There are those who believe, and I am among them, that Cano would actually be the ideal No. 3 hitter for this team. The reason is the No. 3 spot is always reserved for the team’s most feared hitter. Opposing managers will tell you they fear Cano more than any other hitter in the Yankees’ lineup.

It is because his swing is so effortless and the ball jumps so hard off his bat that he can turn a game with a key hit. Managers bring in lefties to neutralize him. But Cano merely hits them better than he does right-handers. Cano is hitting a ridiculous .347 against left-handers and a very pedestrian .270 against right-handers this season. So when you see a manager coming out to the mound to bring in a left-hander they are actually playing into Cano’s strength. Like a cobra, Cano can bite the best-laid of plans to get him out.

There have been clamors about his defense this season. The range is still there. He is also making the most difficult plays look easy. But Cano set a high standard last season by committing only three errors.

Much like his lofty hitting, the standard is hard to maintain. So Cano has made six errors and most of those came on routine plays.

That is the curse of being Cano. When the game is so easy to play it is sometimes easy to get bored with the perfection you play it. Cano sometimes does fall into that trap of looking lazy and disinterested. But it is not really true. Can’s defense is still as sterling as it ever was and it would be a crime of he did not collect another Gold Glove in 2011.

See the big question is that if Cano is not the best second baseman in baseball, who is? Dustin Pedroia? He’s hitting .278 with less power and production. Danny Espinosa of Washington has 15 home runs and Kelly Johnson of Arizona has 14. But they are both hitting south of ,244. Ian Kinsler of Texas and Chase Utley of Philadelphia have had off-seasons and have dealt with injuries. Dan Uggla of Atlanta has more power, but he is not a hitter for average and he is a butcher in the field with limited range.

Rickie Weeks of Milwaukee comes the closest to Cano’s physical gifts. He can run better than Cano. But he is not the fielder Cano is.

So the best thing Yankee fans can do is appreciate what Cano is and what he is providing. They are not likely to see a better second baseman in the history of the franchise. Think of him as an Alfonso Soriano who can field like Roberto Alomar and you get a measure of what Cano means to this team. If this team is to win it all in 2011, Cano will have be right in the middle of it — hitting and fielding.

He may not win that batting title this season. But I think Cano would gladly forego it for a championship ring.

Cano deserves an A- for his first half. The only knock is the .292 average, which I believe will be in the .300 range by season’s end, barring injury. They just do not come any better than Cano.

OTHERS

Here is another Cano trait: He is durable. He has started 79 of the team’s 81 games. Eduardo Nunez started the other two and you are less likely to see Nunez here than you will at short and third for two reasons. One is that it is not a position he is as suited to play. The other is he is needed more often to replace the older Jeter (37) at short and Rodriguez (35) at third. The Yankees also have Ramiro Pena on the roster to play second base.

Nunez starred as a hitter replacing Jeter at shortstop but still needs work in the field at age 24. But the fact he hit .339 in place of Jeter is not lost among manager Joe Girardi. It will be Girardi’s task to find places for Nunez to play so he can get his bat in the lineup more. The fact the team sent outfielder Chris Dickerson back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make room on the roster for Jeter is one clue. Nunez might be seeing more time in the outfield in the second half.

Pena, 25, who is hitting .111, is the opposite of Nunez. He can play infield with the best of them but he won’t hit much. His real value is that he is the team’s best bunter and he can steal a base or two even though he is not as fast as Nunez.

At the minor-league level, the Yankees’ best second base prospect is Reegie Corona, a 25-year-old switch-hitter. However, Corona is on the 60-day disabled list with a broken arm suffered during the winter. He has a long way to go in his rehab and it just looks like a lost season for him.

Kevin Russo, 27, is playing second base in Scranton and he is hitting .278 with a home run and 28 RBIs. He is solid in the field but he is not the athlete Corona is and he is a long dropoff from Cano at the position. We likely will not see Russo unless something happens to Pena or Nunez.

FIRST HALF GRADES

Cano A-

Nunez B

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: A-

Cano is right where he should be in production and he should be better with his hitting and fielding in the second half. The Yankees rely on Cano for so much that he gets taken for granted at times. But managers, coaches and scouts from opposing teams think he is the most dangerous hitter in this lineup. That is a scary thought considering Rodriguez was “that guy” for so long and he still is pretty scary. Just enjoy the second half of watching Cano making everything look easy and helping lead this team to a division title and beyond.

It is almost assured Cano will do just that.

NEXT: THIRD BASE

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Yankee Fans Second the Motion: Cano Best At His Position

As training camp opens in Tampa, FL, the New York Yankees are looking to return to their 2009 form. We will take a look at each position and see how they stack up for the 2011 season. Just how good are the Yankees? Let’s find out:
SECOND BASE
What a difference a year makes.
After the 2009 season, Yankee fans were blogging and messaging that Robinson Cano should be traded. He did not hit well with runners in scoring position and fans felt he was a disappointment.
Of course, there are not many second basemen who hit 25 home runs, drove in 85 runs and batted .320 in 2009. Cano did. The Yankees ignored the blogs and messages.
Good thing, too.
2010 was a coming out party for Cano as he hit .319 with a career-high 29 home runs and 109 RBIs hitting primarily in the fifth spot in the batting order. He not only won the American Silver Slugger award at his position, he also took home his first Rawlings Gold Glove award.
Simply put, Cano emerged as the best second baseman in baseball and was the team’s Most Valuable Player in 2010. So much for him not playing well after his buddy Melky Cabrera was traded to the Atlanta Braves.
At age 28, Cano enters the 2011 season having answered even his most vocal skeptics. I doubt seriously there are many blogs or messages urging he be traded now.
It would not make much sense to trade a second baseman who finished third in the A.L. MVP voting in 2010.
About the only news Cano made this offseason was his hiring of Scott Boras as his agent. That won’t become a real issue until after the 2013 season but the Yankees might want to be prepared to lavish some financial love on their second baseman real soon before Boras shops him on the open market.
But for now manager Joe Girardi is happy to have Cano batting fifth in his 2011 lineup. There have been calls for Girardi to shift Cano to the third spot since Cano, after all, is the Yankees’ best hitter.
But, at least for now, Girardi is not going to step on toes by putting Mark Teixeira in the fifth spot. Of course, if Teixeira gets off to one of his usual slow starts we very well could see Cano shifted into the third spot and Teixeira be the protection for Alex Rodriguez in the fifth spot.
Cano’s improvement with runners on base last season was remarkable. With the bases loaded, Cano hit an unbelievable .611. He hit .319 with runners in scoring position. 
Cano also punished many a left-hander managers brought in to face him. He hit .285 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs against left-handers in 2010. Early in the season, Cano actually had hit more home runs against left-handers than he did against right-handers.
Opposing managers were scratching their head trying to figure out how to get him out in clutch situations.
They also were stunned with how steady he was on the field.
Truth be told, Cano always had the best range among all second basemen in baseball. He also owned the best arm. But Cano had a habit of mental lapses that would cause him to commit errors on the most routine plays.
Not in 2010. After averaging 13 errors a season in his first five seasons, Cano committed only three errors all season. That is remarkable when you consider how many difficult chances he had during the season.
Cano is simply the best second baseman in baseball in making plays to his right using his cannon right arm to make seemingly impossible accurate flips to first. He also has unbelievable range to haul in popups in short right-field, making catches look effortless.
Cano’s nonchalant style had always been criticized in the past. It made him look as if he was not really trying hard. But somehow all that talk seems silly now. Cano is simply so smooth in the field he makes difficult plays look easy.
Cano’s biggest strength is his durability. In the past four seasons, Cano has missed a total of 11 games and none of those were because of a serious injury. He was merely taking a rare day off.
The Yankees now seem to have the total package at second base and their patience has delivered a player who can be a main cog of a team that eventually will not have Derek Jeter in the lineup.
Oh, and it goes without saying that Cano could go down in history as the best second baseman the Yankees have ever had. So it stands to reason the Yankees are currently fielding the best keystone combination in their history in Jeter and Cano.
Heady stuff. But all true.
To mention Ramiro Pena backed up Cano at second base last season seems a bit silly since he started the five games in which Cano missed. But, nonetheless, he was his backup last season.
Pena is a very good fielder with excellent range and a very good arm. But his bat will never be compared to that of Cano.
Pena’s production actually was pretty good last season. He drove in 18 runs in 154 at-bats, which is an excellent rate. But, his batting average dropped to .227 and the Yankees are not committed to 25-year-old Mexico native this season.
The Yankees are also going to take a look at Eduardo Nunez, who is primarily a shortstop, this spring.
Nunez has more athleticism and speed than Pena, a good arm and a booming bat. Nunez hit .289 with four home runs and 50 RBIs in 118 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Nunez, 23, was a minor-league All-Star in 2009 and 2010.
Nunez also has great base-stealing ability and he hit .280 in 50 at-bats with the Yankees late last season. But he is more prone to make errors in the field as he learns at the major-league level. 
So if Nunez is chosen as middle infield backup over Pena, the Yankees will be looking more at his offense and speed than Pena’s solid defense. Make no mistake about it, Nunez’s challenge to Pena is one of the more interesting roster battles of this spring.
The Yankees also have another prospect at the position. There is 24-year-old Reegie Corona, who mostly played second base at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Corona, however, disappointed with the bat in 2010. He hit .238 with five home runs and 31 RBIs in 105 games at Scranton. But Corona is more of a pure second baseman than Nunez or Pena and he plays better than average defense there.
But with Cano entrenched for years, Corona’s path to the majors is seriously blocked unless he begins hitting better.
The Yankees will also look at veteran minor-leaguer Doug Bernier, 30, this spring. Bernier is pretty much a longshot to make the team.
However, Cano makes whoever the backup is a moot point. Cano likely will play in about 158 games, hit over .300 with 40 doubles, close to 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs. He also will continue to play sparkling defense.
The Yankees are now pretty spoiled in having a second baseman who can make a huge impact in the field and at the plate.
Well, Yankee fans, anyone think Cano should be traded now?
Hmmm! Pretty quiet out there. I guess not.
That’s smart.

Cano Proves His Doubters Wrong With An MVP Season

With the end of the season it is time to hand out the final report cards for the New York Yankees for 2010. The Yankees reached the halfway point with the best record in baseball but with much promise to even improve in the second half. But some key injuries and some inconsistency with the starting pitchers dragged this team down a few notches. They qualified as a wild card but to defend their 2009 title they will have to dig deep. Here are the grades:

SECOND BASE

Robinson Cano (29 HRs, 109 RBIs, .319 Avg.)

What more could Robinson Cano have done this season?
All during the off-season Yankee message boards had headlines like “Trade Cano” or “With Melky Cabrera gone Cano will regress.”
Well, at age 27, Cano proved the doubters wrong. He hit for average, he hit for power, he drove in runs and made only three errors in the field. That sounds like a Most Valuable Player to me.
Defintely, Cano carried this team from Game 1 through Game 162. He is the Yankees’ MVP. But you also could make a case for him to be the American League MVP as well.
In the first half of the season, Cano hit .343 with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs. Ten of those 16 home runs came off left-handers. That definitely deserved the A grade he received. Yankee fans saw the “real” Cano they watched grow up before their very eyes.
Deadly at the plate and smooth in the field, Cano simply became the best second baseman in baseball this season.
He also quieted skeptics who pointed out his .202 batting average with runners in scoring position last season. The doubters were many when manager Joe Girardi decided to bat Cano fifth this season.
Cano silenced the critics by hitting .322 with runners in scoring position this season. Here is a stat that will catch any MVP voters’ eye: Cano hit an astounding .611 with the bases loaded. Against left-handers, Cano hit a respectable .287 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs.
During stretches of the season when Alex Rodriguez was on the disabled list or out of the lineup, Cano moved up to the fourth spot and continued to pound the baseball. He was the Yankees’ most consistent offensive threat all season long.
Where Cano has taken the most critcism has been his fielding. Immensely gifted with great range, smooth footwork, great hands and a tremendous arm, Cano made the spectacular plays and muffed easy grounders in the past.
But Cano worked hard with infield coach Mick Kelleher and the dedication paid off in a season in which he made only three errors all season. Given the fact that Cano has more range than any second baseman in baseball, it stands to reason that he deserves his first Gold Glove award.
If he wins it, the Yankees will boast an infield of Gold Glove winners with Mark Teixeira likely to win his third, Derek Jeter likely to win his fifth and Alex Rodriguez having won two as a shortstop. 
Cano has made plays this season that defy explanation. The play he made ranging far to right to stab a grounder up the middle and threw against his body while still moving right and nipped the runner by a step at first is one of the best plays a second baseman has ever made.
His arm is so exceptional that it makes difficult plays look effortless. 
Should Cano win the Gold Glove, the Silver Slugger and the MVP award this season, he would become the first second baseman in the history of the game to do it. Ryne Sandberg and Joe Morgan have won Gold Gloves and MVPs but not in the same season.
The scary thing is Cano might have some upside remaining in his game. He still remains a threat to win a batting title and his power could improve as he gets older. That would be a very scary thought for American League pitchers, who intentionally walked Cano 14 times this season. Cano had received 14 intentional passes in his five previous seasons.
Cano also enters the playoffs as the hottest hitter on the team. In the final series against the Boston Red Sox he hit .583. In a season in which Teixeira, Rodriguez and Jeter had down seasons, Cano had his best season.
He also is a major reason why the Yankees are in the playoffs. If that is not an MVP season, than what is?
Cano also was durable. He started 157 games at second base. With injuries limiting players like Teixeira, Rodriguez, Posada and Swisher, Girardi could not afford to take Cano out of the lineup.
Ramiro Pena started the other five games at second base. He hit .227 with no home runs and 18 RBIs in only 154 at-bats.
Cano deserves a second-half grade of A-. His slight dip in batting average and production is the reason for the minus. But he gets an overall grade of A+. It is going to be fun trying to see Cano top this season n 2011.
The Yankees have a long-terrm prospect second base prospect in Reegie Corona at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Corona, 23, hit .238 with five home runs and 31 RBIs. He also stole 14 bases and the Yankees like his glove. They hope he improves as a hitter.
OVERALL POSITION GRADE: A+

Cano’s offense and defense were huge reasons why the Yankees had the best record in baseball for most of the season. Don’t blame the September slide on Cano. He did his part as he has done throughout the season.
Look for more of the same in the playoffs. Cano merely has to be careful not to swing at too many pitches out of the strike zone. That was his downfall in seasons past but not, as a rule, in 2010.
With a focused Robby Cano the Yankees can look forward to big things in the playoffs. Cano has always seemed to take a backseat to the other more heralded Yankees. But that will not be the case this postseason.
The Yankees desperately need his thundering bat and talented glove-work to repeat as world champions.

Cano’s Monster 2010 Season Has MVP Written All Over It

It is the halfway point of the season for the New York Yankees and you all know what that means. That’s right, it’s time to had out grades for the first term. Some of our Yankees were scholars and some need some remedial work. But with the best record in baseball the Yankees already have a great grade as a team. The funny thing is that they have not really pushed themselves and there is still potential to be even better in the second half. Let’s start evaluating the positions and players.


SECOND BASE

Robinson Cano

The common wisdom this winter was that trading Melky Cabrera would adversely impact Robinson Cano this season. Cabrera, after all, was Cano’s best buddy on the team.
When manager Joe Girardi selected Cano to bat fifth to replace free agent Hideki Matsui the baseball pundits were critcal because of Cano’s abysmal .202 average with runners in scoring position in 2009.
Well, Cano said nothing and has let his bat to his talking for him. The sound from his bat this season is rich in the sweet tones of success.
What more could Cano do for the Yankees in the first half of the season: a .343 batting average, one point behind the major-league leader Justin Morneau, a team-leading 16 home runs (10 of them off left-handers) and 55 RBIs, second to Alex Rodriguez for the team lead.
For a second baseman to be on a pace for 32 home runs and 110 RBIs and a possible batting title is rare in Yankee lore. Not since miscast second baseman Alfonso Soriano hit 39 home runs and drove in 102 runs and batted .300 in 2002 have the Yankees had such a potent bat at that position.
However, unlike the error-prone Soriano, Cano flashes superior range, has a great arm and turns the double play with the smoothness of melting butter on a baked potato. Cano has committed only one error in 426 total chances and seems to destined to collect his first Gold Glove in 2010 if he keeps up his terrific fielding.
So, at age 27, it is safe to say that Cano has finally arrived as an impact player for the Yankees. With Mark Teixeira struggling to find his stroke and Alex Rodriguez down — until just recently — in the power numbers, it is safe to say that Robby Cano has carried the Yankees to the best record in baseball through the first half.
There is talk of a potential Most Valuable Player award for Cano this season. All Cano would have to do is to continue to produce at the pace he has set this season. That is not much of a stretch either because Cano is historically a slow starter who heats up as the season goes along.
If that trend continues for Cano the sky is the limit. Cano hit .400 in April, .336 in May and .333 in June. His second half holds so much promise that even his teammates are in awe of the season he is having. 
The one knock on Cano is that he never is patient enough to take walks. But this season Cano has 25 walks and his career high in walks came in 2007 when he drew 39. Cano seems to be finally learning that letting pitchers’ pitches go and waiting for his pitch will produce better results. Chalk that success up to Cano’s hard work with hitting coach Kevin Long.
Consider also that Cano has started all but one game at second base this season and it perfectly illustrates how valuable he has been to a Yankee team that has gone through stretches of inconsistency at the plate.
There is no other grade to give Cano for his half at second than an A+. What can you criticize about Cano? OK, well he is not the fastest player on the bases. He has two steals and he has been caught twice.
But, other than that, there os not much to say. Despite the lack of blazing speed, Cano is still an excellent base runner. He leads the team in runs scored with 59.
The Yankees have two options to back up Cano: Ramiro Pena and Kevin Russo. Neither of them will hit as well as Cano but Pena is an excellent defender at second. Russo is adequate in the field but a better hitter than Pena. But neither will see much time at the position, barring injury.
Down on the farm the Yankees have two players at Triple-A who could play second base: Reegie Corona and Eduardo Nunez. Nunez, 23, is a better shortstop but the Yankees love his bat. Nunez is hitting .303 with 17 stolen bases at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. There is a possibility that Nunez might be called up in the second half.
Corona, also 23, is hitting just .236 with 11 steals at Scranton. He would seem to be further away from making the roster this season. He and Nunez must also cut down on their errors.
OVERALL POSITION GRADE: A+

Cano was voted as the starting second baseman for the American League in the All-Star Game and it was well deserved. He now seems headed to a Silver Slugger Award and a Gold Glove at second base. 
Should Cano win the MVP he would be the first second baseman to ever win an MVP and a Gold Glove at second base in the same season. Considering players like Joe Morgan, Ryne Sandberg and Roberto Alomar never did it, Cano would be in a league of his own among second baseman.
The scary thing is Cano could get even better. I know A.L. pitchers do not want to contemplate that. But it is within the realm of possibility.
Simply put: Robinson Cano is the best second baseman in baseball today.