A slow Hot Stove season ramped up a little Thursday night, with the Milwaukee Brewers trading for Christian Yelich and signing Lorenzo Cain to bolster their outfield. It’s good news for both guys in fantasy baseball this year, with an upgrade in ball park and lineup.
But I’m focusing on Cain.
After an injury-plagued down year in 2016, Cain rebounded to a .300/.363/.440 slash line with 15 home runs, 49 RBI, 26 stolen bases (in 28 opportunities) and 86 runs scored in 155 games. 643 of his 645 plate appearances game in either the No. 2 (270) or No. 3 spot (373) in the Royals batting order, so with Ryan Braun likely in the three-hole Cain should hit second in Milwaukee’s lineup.
Baseball Prospectus’ park-factor splits shows the upgrade in home park for Cain. Kaufmann Stadium ranked 44th for right-handed hitters last year, while Miller Park came in 19th. So Cain’s slight uptick in fly ball rate (32.9 percent last year) and 22nd-ranked exit velocity among hitters who put at least 400 balls in play last season shows some upside, along with his career-bests in walk (8.4 percent) and strikeout rate (15.5 percent).
Via Ryan Bloomfield of Baseball HQ and USA Today Fantasy, Cain is in line for more running opportunities too.
SB attempts by team since Craig Counsell took over in 2015.
— Ryan Bloomfield (@RyanBHQ) January 26, 2018
Cain has at least 26 stolen bases in three of the last four seasons, with the injury-shortened 2016 as the only exception. Over that four-season stretch, Cain has been successful on 84.2 percent of his steal attempts (96-for-114). Running more could lead to a drop in proficiency, while also adding some injury risk for Cain as he approaches his 32 birthday (April 13). Left groin (2012 and 2014) and left hamstring (2016) have taken him out of the lineup in the past.
Even without knowing where he’d land as a free agent, Cain was easy to tab as a top-20 mixed league outfielder for this year. But landing in Milwaukee with an aggressive manager puts 20 home runs, 30 stolen bases and 100 runs scored on the radar, with a representative batting average in the .280-.290 range, so there’s top-10 fantasy outfielder upside here now.
All stats are via FanGraphs.