There has been a healthy (and gearing towards unhealthy) discussion among fans and on social media regarding who should start in center field for the Brewers next week. At first glance, it is Lorenzo Cain’s job and has been for basically the past four seasons. But Tyrone Taylor is making a case for a possible upset and surprise start in center on April 7th.
The 28-year-old Taylor has grinded and worked his way onto the Brewers roster. The past few seasons, the strategy from Milwaukee was to stack the outfield, which has worked out in their favor. Cain, Ryan Braun, Christian Yelich and others have ended up on the injured list. Having plenty of outfielders helps with that. But that also means that it’s been harder for prospects to make the MLB roster.
The Brewers also have lots of outfield depth in the minors. But no one is really ready for the big leagues except Taylor and Corey Ray. And you can’t even really consider Taylor a prospect anymore. He played 93 games for the Crew last season and there should be no reason he starts in Triple A this year. Lorenzo Cain is in the last year of his five-year, $80MM deal. It’s most likely his last season, so randomly benching him for Opening Day this year might not make sense. Let’s break down the case for each player.
The Case for Tyrone Taylor
Tyrone definitely deserves his shot this year. He will be competing for time in the field against Cain and Andrew McCutchen, but the DH spot will help get him some at-bats. He should also get some games in left and right field too. If he continues to hit like he has in Spring Training, you won’t be able to keep him out of the line-up.
Right now Taylor is hitting .467 over six games with three home runs, eight RBIs and a double. His OPS is at 1.577. They say to not get too excited about stats during Spring, but it’s hard to ignore that he is hitting well. In 2021, he ended with a .247 average but had 12 home runs, 43 RBIs, nine doubles and three triples. He was 6th on the team in home runs, and hit more than Christian Yeich, Daniel Vogelbach, Omar Narvaez and Cain. Cain was injured for quite a chunk of the season, though.
Taylor definitely deserves his shot, and will probably be the future center fielder. He doesn’t even begin arbitration until next season, and could be on the team for the next five years. There is always the chance of being traded or released, etc. But after being patient with Taylor and letting him develop within the system, he has a good chance to finally breakout this season.
The Case for Lorenzo Cain
Players obviously have to earn their spots and playing time, but it just makes sense to have Cain start on Opening Day. He is in the last year of his contract, and has stated it might be his last season. McCutchen is also on a one-year deal, so that means after this season the job is probably Taylor’s in center. It doesn’t hurt in the slightest to give Cain the Opening Day job.
He ended the 2021 season with a .257 average, eight home runs, 36 RBIs and a .401 OPS. He only played in 78 games due to injury. In 2020, he had a .333 average before opting-out after five games. In 2019, he had a .260 average and in 2018 it was .308. He has dipped for sure when it comes to hitting, but still not “washed” or a “noodle bat” as some on the internet would claim.
If you want to get into the nerdy stats, Cain had a higher fWAR of 1.8 over 1.5 last season He also had a higher offensive runs above average (OFF) of 2.9 over Taylor’s 2.5. Cain is still one of the top defensive outfielders in the game too. His numbers dipped offensively, but he still won a Gold Glove back in 2019. That means his first two seasons alone were worth his contract.
Players bounce back too. Look at Joey Votto on the Cincinnati Reds. People were ready to have him retire or move on. He was hitting around .260 with 11 home runs in 2019. In 2021, he hit 36 home runs and 99 RBIs. His OPS was .938. There is nothing to lose in having Cain start and see how he does.
I also threw out the question that I still haven’t received an answer to. What team in history has taken a player like Lorenzo Cain, especially in these circumstances, and just not had him start Opening Day? A team has never gone “yeah, let’s give the younger guy a chance and bench are starting center fielder because why not”. Baseball doesn’t really work that way.
So Who Gets The Start?
Lorenzo Cain. I love Tyrone Taylor, but Cain deserves the start. With the outfield depth, you know there are going to be injuries. Lorenzo is still one of the best outfielders in the game, and there is no telling he won’t bat well this season. He has earned his starting spot on this Brewers team.
And now you add in the designated hitter spot. McCutchen, Taylor, Keston Hiura and others will all get their turn to play and hit DH. If Cain can’t hit well or if another outfielder injury occurs, Taylor will be right in there and get plenty of playing time. He was the fifth or sixth outfielder on the depth chart last year and still saw 93 games.
There is even a chance that Taylor could sub for Cain mid-game or be a replacement. They could ease him into the season and get him going, but I just don’t see him not getting the starting spot on Opening Day. It’s ok for youth to take over and get a chance and their shot. But that is why you have 162 games. Cain deserves the Opening Day start in center field. Tyrone Taylor will be just fine, and I hope he hits 30 home runs and becomes next year’s starter.
This is a great argument to be having going into the season ,and shows the depth of the Milwaukee Brewers.
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