Not that there was anything wrong with Melky Cabrera's defense, but the Royals just got a whole lot faster in center field when they shipped Cabrera to the Giants last week.
With Cabrera gone, in steps prospect Lorenzo Cain a player scouts insist should make it even harder for opposing hitters to find holes in a Royals outfield thats already pretty stingy.
Flanked by Gold Glovers Alex Gordon (2011) and Jeff Francoeur (2007), Cain will give the outfield something it didn't necessarily have with Cabrera big-time speed.
Lorenzo gets to a lot of balls, said Royals assistant general manager of player development J.J. Picollo. That speed is going to be really helpful at Kauffman Stadium.
Cain, 25, is no slouch throwing the ball, either. He had 13 outfield assists last season at Class AAA Omaha exactly the same number Cabrera recorded with the Royals.
I can't wait to get in there with Alex and Jeff on each side, Cain said in a phone interview. I hope I can do my part.
The Royals have little doubt that Cain will live up to the hype.
They made the Cabrera trade with confidence, knowing they had a young player who could patrol Kauffman's cavernous center field for years to come.
I think the year he had at (Omaha) was valuable this season, Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. But it was clear to us that we needed to find out just what we have in him.
We know he has talent, but now we have to find out how it translates to the next level.
Of course, Cain has been itching for this chance since coming to the Royals a year ago as part of the Zack Greinke trade.
Cain had hoped to get his opportunity in 2011, but Cabrera's solid season kept him pinned in the minors.
It was tough at times, Cain said. But on the other hand, I got a chance to play every day and work on some things.
The one real benefit was playing with a bunch of guys that I really liked. It was a good experience.
Playing for a good team (at Omaha) and winning a championship really made it a lot easier. We had a lot of fun, and I learned some things.
Cain's season convinced the Royals that he merited a spot in the everyday lineup for 2012. He hit .312 in 128 games, and set career highs with 16 homers and 81 RBIs.
I think Im a better player now than I was a year ago, Cain said. And now is my chance. I have to prove it at the next level. It's pretty exciting.
Cain wasn't sure what to expect during this off season.
He heard rumors that the Royals might deal Cabrera, but he didn't put a lot of stock in all the noise. There also were whispers that Cain himself might be included as part of a trade to Atlanta in a possible deal for starter Jair Jurrgens, for instance.
As it turned out, Cain learned about the Cabrera trade the same way Royals fans did.
I just started hearing about it on certain news outlets, he said. Then my friends starting calling and texting.
Cains immediate reaction?
Not totally surprised -- but very excited, he said. This is the chance I've wanted. It's out there now and it's up to me.
Cain hasn't exactly been promoted yet.
He hasn't heard from the Royals since the trade -- but there seems little question in anyone's mind that hell open the season as the clubs starting center fielder.
You don't take anything for granted, he said. I've got to go to spring training and work hard, and earn it.
Actually, Cain did speak with the Royals prior to the trade -- when he abruptly left the Venezuelan winter league after just nine games.
The Royals, naturally, wanted to make sure his departure wasnt due to injury.
I wasn't hurt, just fatigued, he said. I had a pretty long season at Omaha, and my body was just kind of worn down. I wanted to make sure I was taking care of myself, that's all.
Cain should start spring training next February re-energized and anxious to prove what he can bring to the Royals lineup.
I know I can play defense, he said. I can do some things offensively, too. I think I'd describe myself as a speed guy with a little bit of power.
Asked where he thought he might fit in the Royals' batting order, he said, I've been all over. I've been a top-of-the-order guy, a middle guy, everywhere.
Just as long as I'm in the order, I'm happy.
The Royals are pretty sure theyll be pleased, too.