As the fantasy season draws to a close, I’m trying to direct a fair portion of my focus toward the fringe guys. That could mean guys whose bats are hot right now despite their season-long counting stats perhaps not standing out to a less investigate eye. Or it could refer to guys who are ending the year on an unexpectedly good note and discovering a part of their game that was previously unharnessed. It could absolutely apply to a guy like C.J. Cron, a low-lineup guy who has spent some time in the minors this year for both injury-related and performance-related reasons. That sort of description probably doesn’t give you a warm or fuzzy feeling about what he could do for you in fantasy right now, but that’s why we analyze rather than just categorically write off. In 40 games played since the All-Star break, Cron has hit .305 with 12 homers and 36 RBI. For context, his last recall from Triple-A was on July 7, so these second-half stats give you a good idea of the player he’s been since that wake-up call. More specifically, he hit .308 and slugged .604 in the month of August while scoring an impressive 15 runs from what’s usually below the heart of the order. Cron has also already doubled, tripled and twice homered in September. With a 3-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB, K performance at Oakland last night, he has put the punctuation on the sentence that states, “I deserve fantasy consideration!” He is sporting a hard hit rate of 44.2% since the break to complement an appealing 24.5% HR/FB ratio in the same span. If you have a need for RBI and don’t hate having bursts of power while a dark horse hits for average nicely, I don’t know what you’re waiting for with Cron. He’s only owned in 17% of Yahoo leagues and 10.6% of ESPN leagues, so the chances are good you could nab him if you want him.
Let’s take a quick peek at what else happened around the world of hitting yesterday:
Manny Machado (3B/SS, BAL) – 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, K. One of Machado’s homers provided the walk-off win for the Orioles, which is just fun to see. The guy is sprinting to the finish after languishing in mediocrity early in the year. He’s a stud you should no longer doubt in the slightest. This is something you know all too well if you own him, but you know it even more pointedly if your current H2H opponent owns him.
Scooter Gennett (2B/3B/OF, CIN) – 2-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. Gennett has been scoring runs at a great rate lately and has all but put Jose Peraza out of fantasy relevance with his takeover of the top 2B depth chart spot. Hitting safely in nine of his last 10, Gennett also has three XBH in his five September contests. The season-long BA for him looks great at .299, and he has struck homer gold before so if he were to push the current total of 24 up to 30, he’d be awful fun to own over the next 3.5 weeks.
John Hicks (C/1B, DET) – 3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB. Excellent line, but Hicks is the firm backup to James McCann. He’s batted well, for sure, but this kind of production is the exception rather than the rule. Hicks is not worth your time unless you’re in a two-catcher format or a points league, in which case he would offer the potential of doubles and moderate RBI production.
Lucas Duda (1B, TBR) – 2-3, R, HR, 2 RBI. He’s not a dynamite option, but he has serviceable things he can contribute to your team’s roto summary in your remaining matchups. Duda has gone just 17-96 (.177) since August 1, but those 17 hits have included four doubles and seven homers. I can’t recommend him as a starting 1B with that wretched average in the recent weeks, but he could fill a spot when your go-to guy is DTD or a healthy scratch enjoying a maintenance day.
Yan Gomes (C, CLE) – 1-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB, K. That’s three jacks in the last six games for Gomes. His real-life future could become unclear with the introduction of highly-touted prospect Francisco Mejia to the majors directly from Double-A, but Gomes is putting in work on the days when he is the starter out of Cleveland’s backstop platoon. Gomes has managed to hit safely in six of seven, and he also plated 18 in the month of August over just 63 at-bats. He’s a viable addition to stop the bleeding if you are frustrated with the struggles of Salvador Perez or J.T. Realmuto lately.
Joe Panik (2B, SFG) – 4-5, RBI. He’s hitting at Coors Field for the series finale, so he could be a decent DFS play today. Ultimately, Panik is just a backup 2B at best this year. He has enjoyed two multi-hit outings at the home of the Rockies, but don’t count on his totals of 10 homers and 46 RBI bumping up too aggressively in the season’s final weeks. Panik owns a .278 average, but I’d say he is only a recommended pickup in the deepest of leagues or normally-sized NL leagues.
Mikie Mahtook (OF, DET) – 3-5, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI, 2 K, SB. Solid evening for Mahtook, but he is not a consistent enough fantasy contributor at this point in the season to get fired up about what he could do for you in the playoffs. An excellent OF in real life, the .276 average is one of the better aspects of his fantasy portfolio, as he only has 10 homers and 43 RBI on the year.
Khris Davis (OF, OAK) – 2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, 2 K. Davis is one of those few guys whose power make it just fine to be patient with a subpar average. With 38 bombs on the year and almost 100 RBI as Oakland’s cleanup man, deploy him with joy in your lineups, although I guess it would be responsible to ensure you have at least one hitter with a BA in the .300s just to be safe.
Would you drop Haniger for Cron? I need help in both OPS/SB categories but I’m not so certain either would help much in SBs, so guess we’re mostly looking at OPS help here. Cron looks to have been so much more consistent than Haniger. Is the answer obvious?
Yeah, Cron is definitely the preferred option over Haniger. I’m advising differently if we’re back in April, but Haniger was never the same after he went to the DL. Cron has the 17th-best wOBA in the league during the 2nd half and the 14th-best mark of 162 wRC+ in the same timeframe. It’s a no-brainer to get him on your roster and trim the fat to do so.
Oh, and his 2nd half OPS is .992 (18th-best) in between Nolan Arenado and Joey Votto. You’ll be in great shape with Cron.