Every now and then you get an outlier -- see Tyler Kepner of the New York Times chatting with ex-Yankee Chad Moeller about some of the pitches he's caught over the years -- but the vast majority of articles that come out of Spring Training are baseball's version of Mad Libs. Insert name here is in the best shape of his career, insert team here is doing things differently this time around or pretty good but not great ballplayer is on the verge of making a leap to the next level.
The best example of this for the Yankees is Robinson Cano and his ongoing battle with patience at the plate. Anyone covering the Bombers has come up with some variation on how a choosier Cano could lead to batting titles, MVP awards, clutch hitting laurels or the Hall of Fame. They've been written before and the Yankees have worked with him before, yet Cano still chases pitches like a dog chasing the mailman.
The stats bear this out, but so does simply watching a Cano at-bat which almost always features at least one pitch Cano clearly decides to swing at before it even leaves his hand. It's frustrating to watch, but his high average and power make him a highly productive player because there are only so many pitchers able to take advantage of the holes in his game often enough to get him out. In tight spots or against good pitchers, though, Cano gets into trouble because his flaws are exploitable.
It's just as hard to think he's going to suddenly change now that he's 27 years old. Much was made about Cano's return to form offensively last season, but he wasn't all that different a hitter. He hit line drives, grounders and flyballs a similar percentage of the time and walked only four more times, with the most noticable change coming in a big jump of the amount of flyballs that left the park. There was also a 41-point jump in his batting average on balls in play, something that can only partially be attributed to Cano himself.
Maybe he can suddenly start walking a lot more often. He's occasionally compared to Rod Carew and Carew did see a significant jump in walk rate at 27, although he already was walking more often than Cano. He also suddenly started hitting .350 every year, a far more significant part of his offensive contribution. Most other guys who bear a passing resemblance to Cano statistically didn't do that, though, and, just as we can't count on articles like Kepner's, we can't count on Carew-esque lightning striking twice.
Or just look at the case of Edwar Ramirez. The Yankees cut him at the end of last week to make room for Chan Ho Park largely because he could never translate his minor league success at the big league level. Ramirez struck out a lot of batters, but walked far too many and the team ran out of patience waiting for him to find a more efficient way of doing his job.
There's a sizable talent gap between Cano and Ramirez, but that doesn't mean he's going to be any more likely to fix his weakness at this point in his career at this level of baseball. That doesn't mean the Yankees shouldn't try to get him to work on his plate discipline -- it is Spring Training, after all -- it just means that there's not much wrong with accepting Cano as the very good player he already is.