Cain's injuries most damaging to Royals in '16

All-Star outfielder could play more right field to protect legs in '17

Cain's injuries most damaging to Royals in '16

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals certainly have missed third baseman Mike Moustakas, lost for the season in May after knee surgery.

They missed left fielder Alex Gordon when he was out five weeks, and closer Wade Davis when he was on two disabled list stints.

The list goes on and on for the banged-up 2016 Royals. But if there was one guy the Royals missed the most, it likely was center fielder Lorenzo Cain, who will wind up playing 103 games because of hamstring and hand injuries, the fewest amount of games he has played since 2012.

Cain has been the Royals' spark plug in recent years, especially in 2016 when the Royals were 57-44 with him in the lineup -- that translates to a 91-71 season, likely good enough for the playoffs.

"We are built around everyone," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "But still, [Cain] is a key contributor. He protects Hoz [Eric Hosmer] and others in the lineup. It just lengthens and deepens our lineup with [Cain] in the lineup.

"We're five games back. Does not having Moose or Cain make up those games? I'm pretty sure."

Cain's RBI single to center

Especially damaging was the loss of Cain, who can beat teams with his power, his speed on the bases, and his speed in the outfield.

Cain should be completely recovered by Spring Training from a Grade 2 hand sprain that sidelined him all but one game in September.

Cain's injuries this season could influence how the Royals utilize him in the field in 2017.

When Cain suffered a hamstring injury in late June and returned in late July, Yost used him exclusively in right field to cut down on Cain's wear and tear.

"Once we get our season over and we start putting together the team for next year, we'll see about that," Yost said. "Is he more than capable of playing center? Of course he is.

"Do we look to put him in right field to protect his legs over the course of a year? Maybe. We'll evaluate that stuff over the winter."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.