Saturday, January 25, 2014

By Robert Cunningham, Staff Writer - 

So I finally joined Twitter recently (@ettinone if you would like to follow me) and have become mildly obsessed with it. It is an interesting source of information and has a different feel from Blogs, forums such as or Facebook for instance. It has also proven to be a source of inspiration to write as Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) made this thought-provoking statement earlier this week:

At first I thought “Really? Is Dan off his rocker?”

Then I said to myself “Hey wait a minute, Lindsey did have a solid AA season and he is young and maybe the stats might paint a different story! Go look!”

So I did:

And there are some shockingly similar parallels in their Minor League careers.

In fact if this had been a blind side-by-side player comparison you probably would have decided that these two players are pretty equal players across their age 20-21 seasons.

Cano’s and Lindsey’s BB% and K% are quite similar over their Minor League careers. Cano had a Minor League BB%/K% rate of 6.55%/12.39% while Lindsey had a 6.09%/14.09% rate. The equitable discussion doesn’t stop there however.

Also, this year, in AA, Lindsey really made an impressive step forward in the power department, smacking 17 home runs in the Texas League. Although Cano clubbed an additional 7 doubles in his age 21 season both players ended up with pretty close slugging percentages (.457 vs. .441) and identical on-base percentages.

This coincides with the observed notion that among all tools power is usually the last one to develop. Both players appear to have discovered some additional power and strength in their age 21 seasons. Cano’s power approach continued to develop and Lindsey appears to be practicing and implementing a similar approach.

John Sickels, in his 2014 Angels prospect list, reported that Lindsey was making more of a conscious effort to hit the ball harder by sacrificing some of his batting average. This could be beneficial to Lindsey’s OBP in two ways. One it is helping him to be more patient at the plate by looking for the one right pitch to hit. The other is that as he becomes more of a power threat the opposing team will be less inclined to give him something good to hit.

However there are some differences in defense. Over Cano’s MLB career he has improved into a steady, above average defensive second baseman. As Sickels noted, Lindsey projects to be league average but is still young enough, like Cano, that improvements could be made. However, it seems likely that Lindsey will never quite rise to the defensive level that Robinson Cano has.

All of this discussion is moot if Lindsey doesn’t continue to develop and make the leap. Nothing is guaranteed in prospect development and reaching such a high level of play in the Majors makes this comparison a real long shot at this moment in time. Lindsey has to continue putting in the hard work if he wants to succeed at the highest level.

Taylor will likely start the season in AAA, barring a pre-season Kendrick trade. The Pacific Coast League is a known offensive-friendly environment so this is a real opportunity for Taylor to continue and improve his development, especially at the plate, if he wants to emulate Robinson’s career arc.

Cano, at age 22 in 114 AAA plate appearances, slashed .333/.368/.574 with 8 doubles and 4 home runs. This is where he truly started to emerge as a power threat and opposing pitchers began to pitch around him, helping to inflate his OBP.

If the premise of Dan’s tweet and this article proves to be true, expect Lindsey to produce a slash line somewhere in the .295/.355/.525 range with Taylor averaging approximately 1 HR every 25 plate appearances. This would be an ideal, perfect scenario.

However if Lindsey doesn’t follow the development arc that Cano did I still expect him to top his AA numbers playing in the PCL. Barring some horrible regression or BABIP bad luck I wouldn’t be surprised to see a minimum slash line of .280/.345/.485 with somewhere around 15-20 home runs over the course of a full season of plate appearances in that offensive environment.

Finally, there is one very important detail to discuss that could derail this Cano-Lindsey comparison: Platoon splits.

Cano, over his career, has learned to hit left-handed pitching quite well and it has helped turn him into a dynamic offensive force in the Majors. Over his MLB career Cano has a LH/RH split of .290/.318 which is pretty impressive.

In order for Lindsey to really walk in Cano’s tracks he will have to improve his ability to hit LHP. His Minor League LH/RH split since 2011 is .269/.308, which is a significant gap. This will have to be an area of focus if Taylor wants to avoid sharing platoon time at the keystone moving forward.

So in an ideal perfect scenario Lindsey has the capability to be a Cano-lite player, probably with a few less doubles. In the worst case scenario he is platooned at second base with someone like Grant Green who can hit left handed pitching well. That would still be quite useful but certainly not an ideal use of roster spots.

Either way Taylor has developed and proved that he belongs in the conversation to serve time on a Major League roster. The Angels likely have big plans for him and if he can continue to make improvements against left-handed pitching and develop even more power, it increases the odds of Lindsey approaching and following a similar career arc that Robinson Cano achieved.

That would be a genuinely good development for a farm system that has suffered over the last couple of years.
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