Interesting news out of Bradenton this morning. According to Mark Feinsand of the Daily News, Robinson Cano will move to the fifth spot in the batting order. The 27 year-old second baseman who averaged 19 home runs and a .306 batting average over the past five seasons will now be responsible for protecting and driving in the likes of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez:
“I think it’s always been somewhat projected that he would move up in the lineup,” Girardi said. “He’s got so much ability and tools, but with young players, sometimes you want to ease him in. To me, Robbie’s not a young player anymore, even though he’s young on this team.”
“You want somebody hitting behind A-Rod so they can pitch to him, so I’m going to have to step it up early in the season,” Cano said. “I know what I went through last year, so for Girardi to put me fifth, that means that he trusts me. He thinks I’m ready.” (source)
Batting Cano fifth is not a terrible idea – he does own a career batting average on the north side of .300 – but there could be some drawbacks here, namely his numbers with runners in scoring position and knack for grounding into double plays. For example, Cano grounded into 22 double plays in 2009, which tied him for fourth in the American League. Meanwhile, Curtis Granderson has only hit into 18 double plays during his entire career. Now, a lot of that has to do with where each player hits in the batting order, but it does demonstrate how Granderson’s speed could be beneficial in the five-hole.
Speed aside, you can’t ignore Cano’s high-contact approach and line drive swing. His superior numbers against lefties and room for offensive improvement are reason enough to give him the nod over Granderson. I think that this could also be a case of Girardi attempting to inspire Cano and reduce the amount of pressure on Granderson. If Robbie falters, I’m sure the former Tiger will move up in the batting order.
Feinsand also listed the probable regular season batting order. Nick Johnson will bat second, and Cano will likely be followed by Jorge Posada, Granderson, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner. When taking a hard look at that lineup, debating on who should hit where really becomes unnecessary. No matter what, this team will score runs.