Fantasy Baseball: Prospect in Focus, C.J. Cron
It looks like Arte Moreno and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim want to get in on the prospect promotion game. Pull up a chair Mr. Moreno and lets mix it up. Houston promoted George Springer over a week ago much to our surprise; Toronto promoted Marcus Stroman on Saturday night; Cleveland is rumored to be promoting Trevor Bauer any day now while Gregory Polanco and Oscar Taveras could be coming soon, so the Angels had to act quickly and they did. C.J. Cron hopped a bus and headed to L.A.
A team like Pittsburgh is desperate to score runs and Polanco is languishing in Triple-A, while the Angels are tearing the cover off the ball and promoted Cron anyway. The Angels have scored 151 runs, ranking fifth in baseball, and they are spending more on replacement home plates than Meineke is spending on rubber, and they decided that they needed to promote a hit first, defense last prospect to score more.
Of all the rumors and speculation regarding who might be next, Cron wasn’t a name whispered, or someone I had pegged for promotion. Does Cron have a place on your Fantasy team? First, lets look at the potential opportunity.
Albert Pujols looks revitalized but health has been a real concern the last few years. Raul Ibanez is a left-handed hitting veteran who signed a one-year deal, so it would surprise me if Mike Scioscia buried him. However, he is batting just .149, so he shouldn’t be a roadblock for Cron. It looks like Cron should have enough opportunities for at bats at both 1B and DH, but he is a defensive liability who can only play 1B or DH, which could be a problem. Scioscia found at bats for Mark Trumbo under similar roster conditions but he was able to play left field. Cron should get plenty of at bats but is unlikely to be a full time fixture in the lineup given his limitations in the field.
Looking at Cron’s skill set, we find that has a unique combination of significant raw power and the ability to hit for a high average. Cron also strikes out at reasonable rather than exorbitant rates, never striking out more than 83 times a season. (Joey Gallo, the best power prospect in the minors, struck out 172 times in 2013). In 2011, Cron hit 13 home runs in 34 games and in 2012 he hit 27 homers in 129 games.
The knock on Cron? He has never walked more than 23 times in a minor league season and in 2013 at Double-A Arkansas, where prospects normally show their mettle, Cron batted .273 with 13 home runs in 134 games, his lowest home run and batting average season as a professional. But in 2014 he has started well, batting .319 with six home runs and 12 doubles in 28 games. Cron doesn’t have the upside of Allen Craig, who has a similar batting average/power profile and has shown the same inability to take a walk. Overall, Cron has more power potential with a slightly weaker hit tool.
In 2014, Cron could hit 12-14 home runs with a .285 batting average but zero steals. With his promotion being so unexpected, he is likely to be on a short leash and will be optioned back to Triple-A if he struggles to hit. I would put in a claim on Cron, but I wouldn’t release a proven veteran or invest a meaningful amount of your FAAB budget on him. A token three or four dollars is what he is worth. He doesn’t have the kind of impact potential that Polanco, Javier Baez or Oscar Taveras has, even though they will end up with fewer at-bats.