At one time Robinson Cano was known as a slow starter. But as April comes to a close, that perception has been totally obliterated by his torrid start.
Going 1-for-4 with an RBI in the Yankees' 6-4 comeback win over the Chicago White Sox on Friday, Robinson's average dropped to an even .400, still high enough to lead both leagues and making him the first Yankee to finish April atop the AL in batting since Paul O'Neill's 1994 campaign. Paulie would go on to lead the league with a .359 batting average in the strike-shortened season, not too far off from Cano's standout 2006 season when he posted a .342 mark, the best of his career.
There were preseason worries that Robinson would not provide enough protection for Alex Rodriguez in his new five-hole spot in the lineup. Cano's 1.235 OPS has effectively quelled those concerns. Robbie leads the Yankees and is second in the AL with eight home runs. His 18 RBIs are sixth in the AL (impressive considering he hits behind Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez) and his aforementioned OPS is the best mark in the American League and second to Colby Rasmus in all of baseball.
Cano has been an absolute force thus far — arguably the best all-around hitter in the young season — building upon a very good 2009 to further solidify himself as one of the top offensive weapons in the loaded Yankees' arsenal.
While Cano's ridiculously prolific offense has stolen the headlines, his glove work at second base has been arguably as valuable as his work with the bat. Always possessing a natural smoothness at second base, Robinson's occasional lackadaisical play resulted in far too many errors, especially for a player with his natural ability.
Previously seen as the weak link in one of the greatest infields ever assembled, Cano has been unbelievable at his position this season, displaying range and power rarely seen out of a second basemen. One need only view Robinson's highlight reel play on the shortstop side of second base (throwing from the grass to first for the out) in Thursday's win over Baltimore (a game in which he also homered twice) to understand that when the player is focused, Robinson's range, smoothness, and third baseman's arm make him literally a prototype for a new kind of second baseman.
A position traditionally populated with quick players possessing light bats and weak arms, Cano's near-perfect swing, long-ball power, and rocket right-wing set him apart from other second baseman in baseball. Yes, that includes Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia.
Robinson Cano will inevitably slump at some point in the season and his numbers will likely come down to an extent (expecting him to make like Ted Williams and hit .400 is a little much). But after a positive improvement in every facet of his game from 2008 to 2009, Cano looks to have continued his evolution into the best second basemen in the game and eventually one of the best to ever play the position.
Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski could field but couldn't hit. Likely Hall-of-Famer Jeff Kent could hit but was a definite liability in the field. Even all-time greats like Eddie Collins and Joe Morgan lacked Robinson's completeness at the plate; the former power and the latter in terms of batting average. Cano's statistics are not reflective of a random hot start by an above-average player. They are indicative of what is finally the total formulation of the player that displayed flashes of his inherent greatness in 2006, the second half of 2008, and in 2009. Forget the Dustin Pedroia comparisons. It's time to start lining Cano up against Hall of Fame residents like Joe Morgan.
Stats for second baseman aged 22 through 27
Morgan is in the Hall of Fame and Pedroia's stats are inflated by his MVP season of 2008 that he has yet to prove he can duplicate. Take into account that legends like Nap Lajoie and Eddie Collins played predominantly in the deadball era and Cano could be poised to one day be considered the greatest and most complete second baseman ever.