Many people were skeptical about C.J. Cron‘s power breakout last season, including his former employer, the Rays. Over the offseason the Rays designated Cron for assignment as they needed to make room on the 40 man roster. Cron, a DH first hitter, didn’t have a spot anymore with the Rays, yet the Twins saw some room even with the addition of Nelson Cruz. Cron has slotted in at first for nearly every game this year with the Twins, and the Twins have been reaping the benefits of having his bat. In the first 42 games of the year, Cron has crushed 12 dingers including last night’s line: 3-6, 3 R, 2 HR, 2B, 4 RBI. He’s putting to bed any qualms about his power while homering seven times in the past 14 games.
There is good reason to be skeptical. Cron consistently had a HR/FB rate around 14% with a fly ball rate around 40% and a hard hit rate around 38%. These numbers were consistent during his four years with the Angels. Something changed in Tampa. He started hitting the ball on the ground more often while bumping his HR/FB rate up about seven percentage points. This change has remained in Minnesota. Less fly balls but more liners now, but his hard hit % has jumped over five percentage points. He’s just hitting the ball well. The other notable thing about Cron is his strike outs. He’s taking more balls and making more contact dropping his K% by five percentage points. The best thing about it all is that Cron’s expected stats backup his performance so far. He has a great chance to remain a force in the Twins lineup and help them push for a division title.
Paul DeJong (SS, St. Louis Cardinals) —2-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI, BB. What a season so far for DeJong. He’s nearly at his WAR mark from last year’s career high. How has this magic happened? It comes down to his eye at the plate. He’s swinging more at pitches in the zone and taking more balls. He’s getting more wood on those balls out of the zone too. He’s nearly doubled his walk rate and cut his strikeout rate by nine percentage points.
Bryce Harper (OF, Philadelphia Phillies) —2-3, R, HR, 2B, RBI, BB. What’s happening to Harper is no fun at all. He’s been floundering for about the past month. Since his five hit game on April 19th, he’s hitting .161 with a 75 wRC+ and a 33.7% strikeout rate. He needed a game to snap him out of this funk and this could be it. The consolation to this is that he is performing slightly worse than his expected stats indicate he should.
Carlos Santana (1B/3B, Cleveland Indians) —2-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI, BB. Santana is having an odd season. His output is consistent to his normal work, walking the same amount as striking out with some power and a middle of the road average. The average is a bit higher than usual though. However, he’s getting there differently. His hard hit % is over ten points higher than last year but his ground ball rate is 12 points higher. If he can flip those grounders back to fly balls and keep the exit velocity he could see a solid power increase. For now though, we’ll take a better average.
Jurickson Profar (1B/2B/3B/SS, Oakland Athletics) —3-3, R, 2B, RBI. Profar celebrated a nice breakout last season and the A’s looked for that to continue in 2019. So far no dice. Profar has been getting on base under 25 % of the time while hitting .178. This can be somewhat attributed to his wildly low BABIP of .175. He should be getting a few more hits which he was able to last night. Profar can still be a medium threat on most categories in addition to his position versatility. However, if he still can’t hit above .200 he’s not worth the trouble yet.
Brian Dozier (2B, Washington Nationals) —2-4, R, HR, RBI. Dozier took a step back last year despite not much changing in his peripheral batting stats. The Nationals took the chance that he’d be back to his normal Dozier self but he’s taken another step back. More strikeouts, more grounders, and less hits, has lead to some lost playing time. He doesn’t look like the player he used to be.
Austin Riley (3B/OF, Atlanta Braves) —2-3, R, HR, 2 RBI. Riley continues his tear in his first major league stint with yet another multi-hit game. So far that is three out of four. He’s showing his power and hitting the ball hard. If he remains unclaimed in your league go grab him. He may be the most impact now player of all the recent call ups.
Josh Bell (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates) —3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB. Bell continues to show off his new skills as he launched two more homers getting his season total up to 14. He’s been more aggressive at pitches in the zone and reaping the benefits with a 56.7% hard hit rate. This has come with a drawback of more whiffs, but the contact he does make is far superior than previous seasons. He is putting together an incredible year.
Mike Trout (OF, Los Angeles Angels) —1-2, 3 R, HR, RBI, 2 BB. It was a milestone night for Trout as he unloaded a 473 foot shot for his 250th home run of his career. He’s on the precipice of another milestone as he is inching towards 200 steals as well with five more to go. Remember, he isn’t even 28 yet. He’s the best and he keeps finding ways to get better.
Brandon Belt (1B, San Fransisco Giants) —2-5, R, HR, RBI. The oft injured Belt had a bit of a scare with his knee last week but the MRI came back clean. He only took a few games off including some pinch hit appearances. In one of those appearances and his game last night he added a couple home runs. Belt is still the skying the ball in the air too much but he’s been making more solid contact and barreling the ball more than previous year. If he is able to stay healthy for the whole season, he has a good chance for some career highs in counting stats.
Jonathan Schoop (2B/SS, Minnesota Twins) —3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI. Schoop is looking to bounce back to his 2017 self after a somewhat disappointing 2018 campaign. The move out of Baltimore and into a fun Twins lineup can only help. He has been helping himself as well, hitting the ball harder and getting more hits with a lot of his production looking like 2017. Schoop looks to be back.
Byron Buxton (OF, Minnesota Twins) —2-4, 2 R, HR, 5 RBI, BB. Buxton is another Twin that has been looking for his return to form or, at least, finding some kind of form that could stick for a while. There seems to be something sticking as he’s hit three homeruns and ten RBI in his last three games. This is all coming from the nine spot in the order.
(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)