Lorenzo Cain had to wait for his chance. The outfield trio for the Kansas City Royals remained healthy and productive in 2011, and he never really sniffed a promotion to the majors at any point until the AAA season was over and MLB rosters expanded.
Getting regular playing time was important to furthering his development as he was still a player looked upon as a possible regular down the road. Thus, letting him rot on the ML bench made no sense.
Hype surrounded Cain breaking camp out of Arizona this spring. The center fielder's stock was at an all-time high, and it seemed as if the heir apparent to Melky Cabrera was ready to step in and produce at the big league level. Cain had been a little under the radar prior to torching Cactus League pitching in March. Fantasy baseball sites were proclaiming him as a sleeper in fantasy drafts after his hot spring. (77% of CBS leagues owned him in early April.) A projected .298-343-441 with 12 home runs and 19 SB by the CBS fantasy experts gave Royals fans high hopes for his 2012 campaign. The question, then, is can he live up to these expectations moving forward?
You can greet Spring training statistics with skepticism, as I didn't buy in entirely. Kila Ka'aihue had many of us believing in his skills in years past, but he left plenty to be desired once at bats began to matter. His average was below the dreadful "Mendoza Line" in 23 games with Kansas City in 2011. He quickly became expendable to a club that had Eric Hosmer and Clint Robinson waiting in the wings mashing pacific league pitching. Will Cain stick as a big league regular?
He's now a 26 year old prospect with only 54 big league games under his belt. With some regular second half playing time, they'll be able to better gauge what they do have. It's time to figure out his role with the club moving forward, or come to the realization that he's expendable as Ka'aihue was. I'd like to think he'll get ample opportunity to produce with Bubba Starling years away and Wil Myers being a much better fit in right field.
Cain has had bad fortune thus far in 2012, battling injuries all year, with numerous setbacks since straining his groin on April 10th. He tore his hip flexor towards the end of April when rehabbing from the groin injury and the healing has been a slow, gradual process. He'll see a little more playing time in AAA to build up strength and work on his timing at the plate. He'll be promoted shortly after the All-Star break if he is deemed healthy.
It's not impractical thinking to believe he'll be an upgrade over the current platoon in center field and give the team a well deserved boost. He would remove some of the sour taste in the mouths of fans regarding the Cabrera trade if he can produce at a respectable level down the stretch. We're all rooting for him to live up to the hype, lessening the blow of a "mulligan moment" for Dayton Moore when acquiring Jonathan Sanchez for a player currently leading the ML in hits.