by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The loss of Josh Hamilton is a major one for the Los Angeles Angels, leaving a significant void in the middle of the lineup. After getting off to a great start, Hamilton will now be lost for the next 6-8 weeks due to a torn ligament in his thumb. In their first game without Hamilton the team featured the following lineup against a southpaw:
- Collin Cowgill – LF
- Mike Trout – CF
- Albert Pujols – DH
- David Freese – 3B
- Howie Kendrick – 2B
- Kole Calhoun – RF
- Chris Iannetta – C
- Ian Stewart – 1B
- John McDonald – SS
Obviously Erick Aybar was given a day off and Raul Ibanez will play against RHP, but the lineup is far from imposing. The team has shown a willingness to play Ibanez in the outfield (he was out there on Monday), so does that mean that the injury could open up playing time for top prospect C.J. Cron?
He’s currently tearing the cover off the ball at Triple-A, slashing .344/.382/.688 through seven games, and the potential to slot him or Pujols at the DH spot could certainly give the lineup a boost in the power department. Prior to the season we said this about Cron in the 2014 Rotoprofessor Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide:
“After showing great power in ’12 (27 HR and 122 RBI in High-A), Cron took a step back in ’13 by posting just 14 HR and 81 RBI at Double-A. The problem was a significant drop in fly balls (27.7% in ’13 vs. 36.3% in ’12). He still showed a decent HR/OFB (11.4%) and made very good contact for a power hitter (14.7% strikeout rate). Given Raul Ibanez’ age, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Cron step in as the team’s DH before long.”
Obviously the Angels have opted to go in a different direction initially, recalling J.B. Shuck (who will likely platoon with Cowgill), but if the offense is struggling a week from today don’t think they won’t hesitate to make a move. As it is the loss of Hamilton has sent Calhoun out of the top spot in the order, impacting his value (the runs scored will plummet).
Can a Shuck/Cowgill platoon suffice at the top of the order? It’s possible, but hard to count on and if they struggle that will necessitate a move from Calhoun back to the top of the order weakening the middle again (unless they turn to Matt Long).
Cron, meanwhile, could step into the middle of the lineup. Before we call his SLG Pacific Coast League aided, he does have 5 doubles to go along with 2 HR. He’s also continued to make good enough contact, with 7 K over 32 AB. He also had a highly successful stint in the Arizona Fall League, with 5 HR and 20 RBI in 80 AB, and added a HR in 24 AB this spring.
There’s no questioning the power potential and there is an obvious need for the Angels. For a team constructed to win now, a few days of struggling to score runs could force their hands. Now may be the time to stash him in deeper formats before the opportunity passes you by.
Sources – Minor League Baseball, Baseball Reference, MLB.com