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Fantasy owners were sent into a panic on Tuesday by the news that not only would Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano be out for a couple months following surgery on his fractured wrist, but he was also going to be suspended 80 games for violating the MLB Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

After initial worries that this would effectively end the season for Cano, it was clarified that he would actually begin his suspension while on the disabled list. This means (assuming no cancellations) that Cano would be eligible to return to the Mariners on August 14, when they play at Oakland.

While Cano will still be able to return to the Mariners this year, he's still missing half the season. In redraft leagues his value is almost completely shot, and he's already been dropped in 21 percent of both Yahoo! and ESPN leagues. But how should owners in dynasty leagues react to this suspension?

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The More You Cano

For the short-term, owners will be able to stash Cano in a DL slot while he recovers from surgery. But he won't be able to remain on the disabled list for the entirety of his suspension, so at some point he will burn a bench slot for the remainder of the 80 days. This will be the moment of truth where owners need to decide: Will Cano still be worth owning beyond this season? The short answer is yes, but the bigger question is for how long?

First let's take a look at what he has done recently. From 2013 to 2017, Cano has averaged 25 home runs, 36 doubles, 94 RBI and 85 runs, with a .299 average and .838 OPS. During that five-year span, there have been only five second basemen to hit at least .290 with 20 HR and 30 doubles in a season, and Cano was the only one to hit those marks three times in that period. He's been without a doubt one of the top fantasy second baseman for several years now, and before the injury he was showing no signs of slowing down.

While it was only in a small sample size, Cano was showing a vastly improved look at the plate this season when it came to taking pitches. Through 169 plate appearances, Cano had posted a 12.4 percent walk rate — nearly three percent higher than his career-best — while maintaining a 13.6 percent strikeout rate that almost perfectly matches his 13.3 percent rate from over the last four seasons. On top of that, Cano was swinging at pitches outside of the zone at a 29.9 percent rate — his lowest rate since his rookie season in 2005 when he had a 25.7 O-Swing percentage.

The biggest concern this season had been his dip in power. Cano was on pace to hit only 16 home runs this year prior to the injury and suspension, with his 10 percent HR/FB rate his lowest since 2008 when he finished with a 7.9 percent rate. And this dip in his HR/FB rate was coming while he was posting a 32.8 percent fly ball rate, which was 2.2 percent higher than his 2017 total. That being said though, taking a look at Cano's Statcast numbers, he was launching the ball better than he had in any season since the inception of Statcast in 2015.

Year Exit Velocity Launch Angle Hard-Hit %
2015 90.9 5.6 45.9
2016 90.1 11.6 43.2
2017 90.3 7.4 43.7
2018 93.8 9.6 55.7
CAREER 90.7 8.4 45.1

These numbers suggest that Cano would have been able to reach 20 HR again this year if it wasn't for the fact he is going to miss half the season. So it appears that if not for the injury and suspension, Cano would have had another solid fantasy season. But what do these numbers mean for the future?

The bottom line is Cano will be 36 years old during the 2019 season. Since 2008, there have been 13 players aged 36 or older who played at least 75 percent of their games at second base. "Legendary" second baseman Marco Scutaro is the only one of those 13 players to post a 3.0 oWAR during that span. There probably isn't much time left for Cano to remain fantasy-relevant, although he should continue to play regularly, as he is signed for five more years after 2018. But where he will play remains a big puzzle piece in determining his fantasy value. His defensive value has been declining over the past few years, and at some point he may end up losing second base eligibility, which will cause his fantasy value to plummet to the point where he is barely worth owning.

So where do you go from here in a dynasty league? The reality is as long as he is second base eligible, he's a must-own even if you're slotting him in as a middle infielder. But the best thing Cano owners can do at this point is suck up losing a bench slot this summer and try to shop him around to other owners in playoff contention when Cano is nearing his return. Cano likely has another year or two of good fantasy production left in him, but it will be better for your team in the long run to trade him away this year.

 

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