Why C.J. Cron May Be A “Sleeper” To Ignore In 2016

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Now that the indications are that Albert Pujols will be ready to open the season some may overlook C.J. Cron. That would be a mistake, as Pujols’ presence shouldn’t have an impact on the playing time thanks to the ability for one of them to slot into DH (Pujols will likely need even more time there as he nurses his foot back to health).

It’s actually surprising Cron has generated more attention, having posted these numbers in ’15:

378 At Bats
.262 Batting Average (99 Hits)
16 Home Runs
51 RBI
37 Runs
3 Stolen Bases
.300 On Base Percentage
.439 Slugging Percentage
.293 Batting Average on Balls in Play

There’s obviously some thunder in his bat, with a 264.225 average distance on non-groundballs helping him post a 14.8% HR/FB in the Majors. With regular AB that translates into a 20+ HR threat, and given the state of the Angels’ lineup it should also lead to a spot in the middle of the order.

The real question is if he can get on-base enough to be productive. In 620 AB in the Majors over the past two seasons he’s hit .260 to go along with a .296 OBP. While his 21.8% strikeout rate isn’t terrible, the underlying metrics scream of a potential regression:

  • SwStr% – 10.6%
  • O-Swing% – 40.4%

Keep in mind that the league average O-Swing% has been 31.3% each of the past two seasons. Chasing outside the zone this much has led to a 17.5% popup rate. Couple that with a lack of speed and a deflated line drive rate (18.4% in ’15) and his .296 BABIP seems reasonable. The O-Swing% also precludes him from drawing many walks (4.1%), and with a weak lineup behind him should mean little upside in the runs scored department.

There is going to be value for any player who could hit 20 HR hitting behind the likes of Mike Trout and Pujols. That said he’s not going to have a sexy average (there’s potential that he even hurts you) and could be a black hole in both R and SB.

As a bench flier, there’s value in hoping that the 26-year old takes a step forward in his development. He shouldn’t be anywhere near your starting lineup, including as a corner infielder, as first base is deep and there are simply better options than a player who could potentially be limited to a two category producer.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Heat Maps

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