• Never mind that he's entering his age 35 season: Robinson Cano continues to be a reliable fantasy pick in 2018.
By Michael Beller
March 01, 2018

Certain player types emerge every February and March as fantasy baseball owners prepare for their drafts and auctions. The specific players who fill those roles change, but the roles themselves carry over from year to year. Identifying the players who fit each archetype before you sit down to build your team can help you find hidden value and avoid impending busts. We’ll take a look at the 10 most identifiable, enduring archetypes in our Player Profile series. In this edition, we consider The Oldie but Goodie: Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners.

My friend Scott Pianowski of Yahoo! calls them Raul Ibañez All-Stars. My pal Derek VanRiper of RotoWire calls them socks-and-sandals picks. Those are a whole lot better than what I’ve chosen to call them, but I can’t steal from someone in the synopsis of a column, so I’m forced to go boilerplate Oldie but Goodie. No matter what you call them, though, the gist is the same.

Oldies but Goodies are players who have been around for so long that the mere thought of drafting them causes many fantasy owners to turn narcoleptic. They remain quite productive, however, and their very essence as boring, well-known commodities drives down their prices. No player better represents that phenomenon than Robinson Cano.

Cano is entering his age-35 season, prime time to carry the torch for the Oldies but Goodies. He had another strong campaign in 2017, slashing .280/.338/.453 with 23 homers, 97 RBI and 79 runs scored. He played 150 games, the 11th straight season in which he hit that mark, confirming that, even as he moves into his mid-30s, he carries as little injury risk as is realistically possible. You may have to worry about the health of other potential Oldies but Goodies failing, but not Cano.

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The peripheral numbers tell us that Cano continues to plug right along after nearly 9,000 career plate appearances. He had a 7.6% walk rate and 13.1% strikeout rate last season, both of which were right in line with his career norms. His hard-hit rate was 36.9%, his best mark since 2013, and three percentage points better than his career total. His soft-hit rate, meanwhile, was down at 12.7%, also his best during his four-season tenure with the Mariners. Cano earned all of the production he racked up in his 13th season in the majors.

If there’s one knock on Cano it’s that his power numbers have been all over the map, both across the course of his entire career and over a more recent five-year sample. In the last five seasons, his homer totals have been 27, 14, 21, 39 and 23. After hitting 35 homers combined in 2014 and ’15, it seemed his days as a power hitter were in the rear-view mirror. The 39-homer campaign in 2016 may have been an anomaly, but it was encouraging to see him get to 23 jacks last year. That should give the fantasy community confidence that he has another such year in him this season.

It’s important to note that outside of a few outliers, mostly on the high side, Cano’s HR/FB ratio has remained flat most seasons. His career HR/FB ratio is 14.5%, and he has been within one standard deviation of that rate in seven of the last nine seasons. It’s his fly-ball rate that fluctuates wildly, going, as an example, from 25.3% in 2015, to 36.1% the next season, to 30.6% last year. Cano’s volume of fly balls will determine if he’s closer to 20 homers or 30, but it’s safe to say he’ll be somewhere in that range.

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Cano is coming off the board at an average draft position of 82.15, right in line at his position with Whit Merrifield and Chris Taylor. With all due respect to those two and the breakthrough seasons they had, I’m taking Cano over them every time. Looking at the entire player pool, Cano’s ADP has him rubbing elbows with Domingo Santana, Justin Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Roberto Osuna and Gerrit Cole. That company feels appropriate, but also drives home why Cano is an Oldie but Goodie. Despite a 13-year track record as one of the most reliable players at a shallow position, Cano’s price is eminently reasonable, if not an absolute bargain on its face.

The days when Cano was one of the most exciting, sought-after fantasy players are long gone. That’s fine. Savvy fantasy owners have been turning profits on boring old veterans since Raul Ibañez was in his post-heyday (thanks Pianowski), and likely long before that. It’s not going to stop this year. Put on your socks and sandals (hit tip to you, VanRiper), and grab Cano, this season’s Oldie but Goodie.

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