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Fantrax Staff Debate: Lorenzo Cain vs. Andrew McCutchen

One of the most enjoyable parts of fantasy sports in debating which players are better than others. We’ve all done it. You’re hanging out with some friends, probably enjoying a beer or two, and you get into a long discussion over which player is better than another one. Sometimes it might get heated, but that’s okay. We aren’t all going to agree on every single player. That would make fantasy leagues incredibly boring.

The same can be said here at Fantrax. We have a great group of writers and podcasters (that might not be a word but who cares) who are all very knowledgeable, but we don’t always agree. So we figured we’d have some good ol’ fashion debates about two players that are close in potential 2018 fantasy value.

Today, we go over two veteran all-star outfielders, Andrew McCutchen and Lorenzo Cain, that will be taking their talents to new places in 2018.

Previous Staff Debates

Willson Contreras vs. Buster Posey

Mike Zunino vs. Yasmani Grandal

Edwin Encarnacion vs. Rhys Hoskins

Anthony Rizzo vs. Cody Bellinger

Brian Dozier vs. Dee Gordon

Ozzie Albies vs. Yoan Moncada

Corey Seager vs. Alex Bregman

Carlos Correa vs. Trea Turner

Kris Bryant vs. Manny Machado

Travis Shaw vs. Rafael Devers

Betts vs. Stanton vs. Blackmon

Lorenzo Cain vs. Andrew McCutchen

Tale of the Tape

McCutchen Cain
86.5 ADP 92.5
31 Age 31
5’11 Height 6’1
195 Weight 205
9 Years 8
570 AB 584
0.279 AVG 0.300
28 HR 15
88 RBI 49
94 R 86
11 SB 26

Eric Cross (@EricCross04)

Both Lorenzo Cain and Andrew McCutchen are at very similar stages of their careers. They’re each entering their age-32 seasons and will have a new place to call home on opening day. In fantasy, they’re being taken only six picks apart on average, just inside the top-100 overall.

I can see the allure of Cain. He has 25-steal speed and will be going to a better hitter’s park in Milwaukee, which is actually where he started his career back in 2010. Could the new, more hitter-friendly home park help give Cain’s power a boost? Sure it could, but to what extent? Cain is hardly a power hitter. He hit fly balls in only 32.9% of his at-bats in 2017 and in 30.5% in his career.  He’s likely to add a few homers this season, but don’t forget that this is the same player that has combined for just 45 home runs over the last four seasons.

Most will see McCutchen’s new ballpark and assume his power will suffer, and it probably will. However, it’s not like PNC Park was a hitter’s haven. Furthermore, AT&T Park hurt’s left-handed power more than right-handed power, and spoiler alert, McCutchen is a righty. It’s not like the Giants had a bunch of mashers in their lineup last season, either. Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford are fine hitters, but none of them inspire fear in opposing pitchers that they’re going to go yard. McCutchen is in the midst of a seven-season stretch of 20+ home runs, and barring injury, he should make that eight straight in 2018.

So far we’ve established two things: The power edge goes to McCutchen and the speed to Cain. Due to their projected spots at or near the top of the lineup, both men should put up a lot of runs and both have proven they can hit for averages near or above .300. What this comes down to for me are past track records. In his eight full seasons, McCutchen has never gone below 146 games or 548 at-bats (both in 2014). Cain, on the other hand, has only two 500+ at-bat seasons under his belt.

Both players are likely to turn in productive seasons with values very similar to each other, but McCutchen is the safer of the two to stay on the field and provide that value. That gives him the slight edge in my book.

Mick Ciallela (@themick23)

Andrew McCutchen and Lorenzo Cain are two talented outfielders who will be playing for new teams in 2018. While McCutchen is going several picks earlier than Cain, I think I like the latter a bit more for fantasy purposes this season.

McCutchen has been a consistent fantasy commodity throughout his career. McCutchen has averaged 24.2 home runs and 86 RBI over the last five seasons and should hold a decided edge over Cain in homers and RBI. However, it’s not as if McCutchen is Mike Trout. For as great as McCutchen has been, he has never driven in 100 runs in a season and has scored 100 runs in a year only once, and that was way back in 2012.

McCutchen’s once-elite batting average has declined dramatically in recent years. After posting three consecutive .300+ seasons from 2012-2014, McCutchen has posted a .275 average since, as his hard-hit percentage has declined in each season. His speed has similarly eroded. McCutchen has been successful on just 28 of 45 stolen base attempts since 2015.

Cain, meanwhile, has hit .300 and stolen 96 of 114 bases since 2014. Cain’s prowess on the basepaths should not be overlooked under new manager Craig Counsell. Counsell’s Brewers have attempted 406 stolen bases over the past two seasons, by far the most in MLB during that time. The league average is just 233. Cain may never hit 20 home runs or drive in 80 runs, but he doesn’t have to in order to be an elite fantasy performer.

I believe Cain should at worst repeat his 2017 effort, and a return to his 2015 numbers (.307, 101 runs, 16 home runs, 72 RBI, and 28 steals) is firmly in play, making him a potential top-10 outfielder in 2018. It is this upside that has me leaning toward Cain over McCutchen in 2018 drafts.

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Keith Farnsworth (@fantasy_keith)

Lorenzo Cain has been an underrated fantasy asset for several years now. With his move to Miller Park this offseason, his fantasy value may hit an all-time high. Cain is a high average hitter, 20/20 potential, hitting in the middle of a dangerous offense, and playing half of his games in a ballpark that plays great for power.

Cain’s exit velocity suggests that more power in Miller Park is definitely obtainable. In 2017, he had the 31st highest average exit velocity among qualified hitters in baseball (89.2 MPH). Here are a few hitters who Cain surpassed on his way to 31st overall … Mike Trout, Edwin Encarnacion, Justin Upton, Nolan Arenado, and Mookie Betts. His generated power off the bat is great, and if he continues to trend toward hitting more fly balls, this trip to Milwaukee could be a big one.

Cain’s fly ball percentage has gradually been climbing since 2014 (26%) and hit its highest point in seven years in 2017 (33%). During the increase, Cain has been able to hold onto his high contact percentage, suggesting a full skill improvement rather than an adjustment that would result in a lower batting average. The stage seems to be set for Cain to have a big year with the Brewers, and I don’t want to miss out by passing on him on draft day.

Anthony Franco (@affranco10)

As I noted in my recent Draft Targets article, Cain offers rare power-speed upside. No player surpassed Cain in both sprint speed and average exit velocity last season, and this offseason he ditched a pitcher-friendly home park for a hitter’s haven.

Cain has some durability concerns, but his most recent body of work was impressive. He set a career-high in games played and plate appearances last season, and he continued to produce at extremely high levels. His speed remains elite, and, in addition to the friendlier home park, his move to Milwaukee may boost his fantasy stock in a subtler way.

Cain has long been an extremely efficient base-stealer, but he has never racked up 30 steals in a season, largely because he has been inclined to pick his spots to run. Milwaukee, though, has shown an organizational proclivity to take off. In the two full seasons under General Manager David Stearns, the Brewers have ranked first and second, respectively, in stolen bases and stolen base attempts. Cain has the speed and skill to be an elite base-stealer, and he may now have more of an opportunity than ever to run.

Even entering his age-32 season, Cain has yet to show any sign of physical decline, and he should offer above-average fantasy contributions across the board. McCutchen, on the other hand, has not stolen 20 bases in a season since 2013 and has posted higher strikeout rates in each of the past three seasons than Cain has (with similar exit velocities). Given Cain’s speed upside and more favorable home park, I would go with Cain over McCutchen.

Overall Fantrax Verdict: Lorenzo Cain 7-2

Lorenzo Cain Andy Singleton, Anthony Franco,  Keith Farnsworth, Mick Ciallela, Nathan Dokken,  Ryne Milkins, Van Lee.
Andrew McCutchen Eric Cross, Ryan Cook.

Thank you for reading and we hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members.  Got a question that we didn’t cover here? Then follow us on Twitter (handles above) and ask there.

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