There are players that make the difference in fantasy leagues throughout the season, every year. No matter the sport, fantasy leagues are seldom won by a first round pick. It’s often the diamonds in the rough that make the difference between the league contenders and the league champions. This year has had no shortage of key difference makers. Players like Charlie Blackmon, who went undrafted in most leagues, only to explode to universal ownership, by season’s end. The longer the season wears on the harder these gems are to find. Most players look to the minor leagues for emerging prospects getting the call in the hopes they pan out into a valuable addition.
Earlier this year, Jonathan Singleton started the AAA season on a tear and forced his way to the big club with his performance. Fantasy junkies nation-wide signed up for his services when he got the call. He’s shown what a lot of us expected out of him in his brief time with the Astros. He’s flashed big HR’s, a fair batting eye, and an awful lot of whiffs, along the way. Another rookie slugger, has operated without nearly the fan fare. Anaheim Angels rookie C.J. Cron, got the call to the big leagues back on May 3rd, a full month ahead of Jonathan Singleton. Today his ownership percentage on Yahoo is at an anemic 4%, and his produced around the 800th best player in the game this season.
Cron was featured by Jason Hunt in this piece at the time on FakeTeams. The conclusion was that due to the wealth of depth at the 1B position that Cron was unlikely to provide enough value to warrant an add outside of the deepest of leagues. The expectation was set at a .245 Batting Average and 15 HR power the rest of the way at the time. So why, bring him up? Well, last week, an under the radar move by the Angels took place as they cut ties with 42 year old Raul Ibanez, which was the only thing standing in the way of young C.J. Cron getting everyday playing time. Over the last 7 days, he’s responded mightily, performing like the number 22 player in the sport. Tonight vs the Texas Rangers on Sunday Night Baseball he took Rangers ace Yu Darvish deep putting an exclamation point on a weekend series where he had 4 hits in 10 at bats for 3 HRs.
Cron is a good hitter, but his walk rate leaves plenty to be desired. Due to the room to improve that part of his game, there is a lingering concern about his ability to remain an above average hitter at the major league level. However, C.J. manages to off-set his low walk rate with an above average contact rate giving him the opportunity for a palatable batting average. Cron’s ability to put the ball in play and limit striking out, I believe will yield a batting line closer to .275 than the .245 that was projected earlier this season (all due respect to a very good writer in Jason Hunt). His season line is up to .286 after Sunday night’s 1 for 3 batting effort, and his .313 BABIP suggests there is nothing particularly lucky about the results of his first 7 weeks in the big leagues. There are no split disparities to worry about either, as he hits both lefties and righties at a consistent clip and has done so throughout his minor league career.
Batting average aside, this isn’t the part of Cron’s game that is going to have fantasy owners jumping to the waiver wire to add him. In a power starved game, Cron offers significant power upside and because of this, should be on your radar for an immediate addition. C.J. is currently averaging a HR per every 18 at bats in limited playing time this season. His HR/FB ratio is a reasonable 12.8%, and there is no reason to think that it isn’t sustainable. The HR pace is a little advanced from his minor league showing, but Cron put up strong slugging percentage totals throughout his minor league profile, and at just 24 years old, there is no reason to think there is not more power in his bat. There should also be ample opportunity to contribute to the counting stats batting line-up featuring Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, and Albert Pujols.
Cron wasn’t a highly touted prospect, and hasn’t really been buzz worthy. He isn’t Gregory Polanco or George Springer. But, he is a consistent bat, with some legit pop. Personally, I actually like him a little bit better than Jonathan Singleton due to his ability to put the ball in play. With the playing time obstacles cleared, Cron should continue to make a name for himself this season and earn his way on to fantasy rosters in the process. I’m feeling Cron out for roughly a .275 average, 20 HRs, and solid counting totals by season’s end. If you missed out on Kendrys Morales, Cron is likely able to give you similar value, and he’s almost universally available throughout fantasy leagues.