C.J. Cron & Ruben Tejada: Deep League Wire

Would it be too awful a pun (or half-pun) to say this week’s column is a tribute to fallen angels? Probably, so I’ll rephrase: Here are two former full-time players who lost their jobs after some struggles but have now returned to regular playing time. As usual, the players featured in this column are better suited for mono leagues, and the ownership percentages are by way of CBS.

C.J. Cron / 1B / DH / Los Angeles Angels / 9%

Cron was the recipient of some sleeper love entering 2015, especially after a monster spring, but the 25-year-old flopped so badly out of the gate (.204 average, one home run) that he was dispatched to Triple-A in late May. Two weeks later — and a 1.007 OPS in the Pacific Coast League — and he’s back, looking to reclaim his role as the Angels’ full-time DH.

Cron’s calling card is his power. He slashed .292/.337/.498 in the minors and belted 11 homers in 253 big league plate appearances last year, and at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, the build for a power hitter is certainly there. Although he doesn’t really walk, he also doesn’t strike out a ton, at least not for a power hitter, and he was showing improvement in his contact rate over last year before he was sent down.

Of course, it was type of contact that was the problem. Cron was still hitting fly balls at a healthy enough clip, but he popped up in nearly a quarter of the instances in which he put the ball into play. Meanwhile, what was an already high O-Swing% in 2014 got even worse, and as he chased balls out of the strike zone, his Pull% evaporated. That’s poison for most would-be home run hitters, but an especially acute problem in Angel Stadium, which diminishes long ball power for righties under the best circumstances.

Obviously, we would do well to take Cron’s performance in the PCL with a grain of salt, but there’s a great deal to be said about a player rediscovering his confidence. I’m reminded of Travis d’Arnaud’s odyssey last year: helpless at the plate for two months, a quick, successful stint in the PCL, and then a return to the majors, where he performed at a very productive level the rest of the way. Naturally, it wasn’t just a vacation for d’Arnaud, as he made some mechanical adjustments, and so it was with Cron, who Mike Scioscia said worked on getting his timing back.

Whether Cron got some confidence back remains to be seen, and might be the key to salvaging his season. For the immediate future, Cron could be looking at a platoon situation, which would still give him some value in AL-only formats, though Scioscia has indicated he’d like to give him full-time at-bats again, and the Angels, with the fourth-lowest wOBA in baseball, need all the offense they can get.

Cron is a speculative upside play, of course, but then again, who, exactly, are you picking up off the wire at such low ownership percentages that doesn’t fit that description? Since his ownership will quickly spike if he puts together a few good games, owners in AL-only leagues and perhaps those in deep mixed leagues as well who are looking for some pop off the wire should consider adding Cron now.

Ruben Tejada / 2B / SS / 3B / New York Mets / 8%

Tejada doesn’t hit home runs. He doesn’t steal bases. The Mets’ lineup doesn’t hit well enough to drive him home, and they don’t get on base enough to give Tejada a chance to drive them in. But Tejada is on an undeniable hot streak right now, and with Daniel Murphy hitting the DL, David Wright nowhere to be found and the likes of Eric Campbell and Daniel Muno representing what the Mets call a bench these days, Tejada has come into everyday at-bats.

And that’s not necessarily an inconsiderable development for deep league owners, since one thing Tejada does do well is get on base, and lately, he’s been a line drive machine, smashing them at a 30.8% clip since becoming a full-time player two weeks ago. During that period, his batting average has soared by 100 points, and, coupled with an 11.3% walk rate, his OBP now sits at an excellent .371 mark.

No, Tejada is not going to keep up this pace, and there was a reason the Mets swallowed hard this offseason and rolled the dice with Wilmer Flores’s glove at shortstop over Tejada, who was once anointed the successor to Jose Reyes in New York. But at 25, he’s at a point in his career where it’s put-up-or-shut-up time, and this might be his last opportunity to prove he deserves a full-time job at the major league level. Add to that motivation some infield versatility, and Tejada could be a nice utility option in NL-only leagues.

Karl, a journalist living in Washington, D.C., learned about life's disappointments by following the Mets beginning at a young age. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he has contributed to the 2014 and 2015 editions of The Hardball Times Annual. Follow/harass him on Twitter @Karl_de_Vries.

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
7 years ago

Tejada’s a decent real life bench piece, just don’t mistaken him for a productive fantasy one-even in deep NL-only leagues.