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Strike Zone

Notes: Myers vs. Cron

by Matthew Pouliot
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

I wrote the following 6 1/2 months ago in the First Base Breakdowns column, having listed Wil Myers as an “overrated” and C.J. Cron as a “sleeper.”


Cron and Myers were both born in 1990. Cron had a 117 OPS+ last year, beating Myers by four points. Cron has played in 308 games with a 111 OPS+ the last three years; Myers has played in 304 games with a 103 OPS+ during that span. Myers got an $83 million extension over the winter. Cron got some trade rumors and a Luis Valbuena signing that could lead to diminished playing time, depending on how things work out. I’ve never considered myself a Cron fan, but he’s come through with solid production at every turn, and this should be the year that he gets 150 games to demonstrate whether he’s a legitimate middle-of-the-order guy on a good team. Unless the Angels start sitting him for some reason, he should be of some use in mixed leagues.


I’ve thought about that comparison a lot this year. Of course, I didn’t think they were equal for fantasy purposes; Myers had the potential for all of those steals, and I had him 76th in my top 300, 97 spots higher than Cron at 173rd. The disparity in most preseason drafts was far greater; I never ended up with Myers in a league, yet I drafted Cron as a corner infielder several times.


As it turned out, Myers got off to a fast start and Cron struggled, landed on the DL for a spell and got sent down twice. Recently, though, things have spun around in a big way for Cron. He’s hitting .292/.347/.591 with 11 homers and 33 RBI in 39 games in the second half. He now has a 104 OPS+ for the season. Myers has been pretty aimlessly drifting for the last four months, hitting .214/.320/.399 with 17 homers and 43 RBI in 105 games since the beginning of May. He, too, has a 104 OPS+ for the season. Once again, Cron and Myers have been the same player, except for perception (and playing time).


I wonder if we’ll do the same dance again next year. Myers, by virtue of his contract, will remain a centerpiece for the Padres, even though it’s hard to take much of anything positive from his season. His swinging-strike rate is up 20 percent and his strikeout rate is 15 percent higher than last year. He’s also popped up a ton. His exit velocity does remain very good, and he has continued to run, going 17-for-23 stealing bases. He’ll just be entering his age-27 season next year, and his price tag will certainly be lower than it was this spring. Importantly, he has stayed completely healthy for the second year in a row after dealing with wrist problems previously. I’m not going to bet big on him next spring, but with the cost going down, I don’t think he’ll be on my avoid list.


Cron needs to maintain this big finish he’s working on or he could again go into the season not promised anything. After all, the Angels threatened to turn him into a platoon bat against lefties after a 2016 in which he had a 116 OPS+ (and hit righties better than lefties). I’m still not particularly high on Cron; I don’t think he’ll ever take a leap into All-Star territory. I just find it weird the way the Angels have treated him, given that he’s typically been one of their best hitters when he’s played. If they put him in the middle of their lineup and leave him alone, I imagine he’ll be good for 25 homers and 90 RBI, albeit with a mediocre OBP. But I don’t have all that much faith they’ll do it.


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American League notes


- In a surprising turn of events, it looks like the Rangers will promote neither Jurickson Profar nor Willie Calhoun. The omission of Calhoun is quite disappointing; he certainly earned the look by hitting .300/.355/.572 in Triple-A this year. That included a .911 OPS, eight homers and 26 RBI in 29 games after he came over from the Dodgers in the Yu Darvish deal. It’s clear the Rangers just don’t want him accruing that one month of service time ahead of next year, since he should be in their plans for 2018.


Profar’s absence from the roster is much more shocking and really quite ridiculous. He didn’t excel in Triple-A, but his .287/.383/.428 line is perfectly solid. He had a 33/43 K/BB ratio in 383 plate appearances. The Rangers lost their third baseman and have gotten garbage production from second and first; I’m not saying Profar should start at any of those spots, but there are plenty of reasons for him to be on the roster.


Why isn’t he? Profar entered this year with three years and 124 days of major league service. He spent April, a week in June and three days in July on the major league roster. If he were called back up now, he’d finish the year with four years of service. However, by keeping him down, he’s still under that mark, putting him under team control for three more years, rather than two.


Frankly, I think it’s disgusting that the Rangers would play service time games with a player five years removed from his major league debut. And it’s not like some sort of big payoff seems likely. The Rangers no longer think Profar will be great. I’m not even sure they think he’ll be good. It doesn’t look like he’s in their future plans at all; instead of moving him around the field, like they did in the majors last year, they had him make 77 of his 83 starts for Round Rock at shortstop, and it’s not like he’s overtaking Elvis Andrus on the depth chart. Most likely, the service-time games are all in the name of aiding his trade value this winter.


- How about Profar to Cleveland for Tyler Naquin? It’s not a great fit, but those two seem like similar cases. I’m not sure what it is that so soured the Indians on Naquin, who finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting last season. As you might remember, he was the Indians’ Opening Day center fielder this year, but he was sent down after playing in six games and he spent just three more days on the active roster in July before being recalled Tuesday. The Indians had already added Greg Allen on Sept. 1 and they started Allen over Naquin on Tuesday, even though Allen had a .700 OPS in Double-A while Naquin was finishing up with an .833 OPS in Triple-A. There’s the opportunity for someone to make an impact with Bradley Zimmer out due to a concussion, but neither would seem to be worth adding in a mixed league right now. Allen makes for a good AL-only pickup.


- Through no fault of his own, Brad Peacock might finish out the season in the bullpen. The Astros have already demoted Mike Fiers to make room for Justin Verlander, but Lance McCullers Jr. (back) is coming off the disabled list Wednesday, leaving the team with six starters. Peacock has been terrific, going 7-2 with a 3.34 ERA as a starter. There’s a good case for him as the No. 4 starter in the postseason over Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh, but it’s also true that he’d likely be a much bigger weapon coming out of the pen than those two. If the Astros could count on McCullers’ health, it’d be an easy call to shift Peacock to relief work now to get him ready for October. The danger is that McCullers will have a setback, and if that were to happen, the Astros would be better off having Peacock starting Game 3 of the ALDS. Regardless, Peacock will get one more start this weekend. Things are up in the air after that.


- 2016 third-round pick Austin Hays got the call from the Orioles on Tuesday after hitting .329/.365/.593 with 32 homers between high-A and Double-A. He doesn’t like to walk, but he can spray liners and pull homers. The Orioles will almost certainly start him against lefties; he had an 1.170 OPS against them this year. More interesting will be whether he starts against righties. I wouldn’t mind giving him some of Mark Trumbo’s at-bats, but, assuming we’re talking about DH time, I’d probably give them to Pedro Alvarez first.


- Kelvin Herrera was back available Tuesday after missing a couple of more days with his tender forearm. I don’t think he’s out of the woods just yet, but after Brandon Maurer’s disastrous showing Monday, I’m not sure there’s anyone else worth owning in the Kansas City pen at the moment. Joakim Soria (oblique) is just now getting ready to resume throwing off a mound. Maybe he’s back next week, but it’s not to be counted on. If Herrera does experience another setback, then it’d probably be worth grabbing Soria or Scott Alexander, assuming that you need saves.


- Garrett Richards looked really good over the course of 52 pitches in his sudden return to the Angels rotation on Sunday. There’s no way anyone can count on his arm holding up, but he’s worth the try in mixed leagues, with the caveat that he’s still probably going to be limited to 65-70 pitches next time out.


National League notes


- Besides the lack of command, Matt Harvey failed to show much in the stuff department in his return to the rotation against the Astros on Saturday. Now he’ll start on three days’ rest, at his own request, Wednesday against the Phillies. It seems largely forgotten now that everything went immediately south for Harvey this season when he was called on to make an emergency start in Noah Syndergaard’s place on April 27, one day after he doing his usual between-starts throwing. He wasn’t the Harvey of old before that, but he did have a 2.84 ERA in four starts. Filling in that Thursday, when everything was geared for him to start a day later, his velocity quickly dropped off the table after the first inning and he gave up six runs. Since that day, he has a 7.66 ERA in 10 starts.


If Harvey can finish the season on the active roster, the Mets almost certainly will have to tender him a contract for 2018. He’s pitched so poorly that he’d be due only the most modest of raises in arbitration, from $5.125 million to probably $5.5 million-$6 million, which wouldn’t even be guaranteed. Any starting pitcher with any kind of potential is worth that much. Things do seem pretty bleak, though. Harvey has struggled mightily to retire hitters when he doesn’t have his ‘A’ fastball. He’s still averaging 94 mph this year, which one would think would be good enough, but it doesn’t seem to be for Harvey, at least not when his slider is as flat as it has been. He needs to prepare for a future in which he can no longer touch 95 mph, and since the Mets aren’t playing for anything anyway, this would be a pretty good time for him to prioritize his changeup and curveball and maybe work backwards in the count more frequently. Fantasy leaguers can write him off the rest of 2017, but Harvey himself has some work to do.


- Nori Aoki joining the Mets as a free agent was unexpected, but it makes more sense after factoring in that he’s still only arbitration eligible this winter. It looked like Travis Taijeron might get a chance to spend September as the team’s primary right fielder, but now it’s set up so that Aoki, Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo will get all of the outfield time they can handle.


- The Braves on Tuesday aggressively promoted a top prospect who opened the season in A ball, but it wasn’t outfielder Ronald Acuna. Instead, Luiz Gohara was called up to make his major league debut against the Rangers. The game ended up being rained out, so Gohara will go Wednesday instead. Gohara ranks behind some other young Braves arms, but he has big velocity and a slider that’s netted him plenty of strikeouts in the minors. I’m pretty excited to see what he can do. Those needing to roll the dice for gains in wins and strikeouts can take a shot.


- Just when it seemed safe to write off Jonathan Villar for the rest of the season, the guy picks up 10 hits in four days. Now he’s the Brewers’ center fielder, apparently, even though Keon Broxton has the far better glove and an extra 70 points of OPS on offense. Trying to capitalize on Villar’s little hot streak makes sense for Milwaukee, but there’s no telling whether he’ll be right back on the bench again in a week. In the meantime, it makes sense to pick him up. Broxton appears worthless now.


- Mark Melancon will undergo surgery… though perhaps not until after the season. The good news is that source of his nagging elbow pain is muscular in nature and should be relieved by surgery that wouldn’t affect his 2018 season, whether he has it now or waits until October. So, he’ll keep pitching unless things get worse. Sam Dyson remains the favorite for saves in the San Francisco pen despite last Friday’s five-run blowup. Melancon, though, might yet get a couple of chances in the ninth before season’s end.


- So, the Phillies called up J.P. Crawford, yet they’re going to give him more time at third than shortstop, even though a) he’s absolutely 100 percent a shortstop and b) Maikel Franco has a lot more chance of being useful to the next contending team than Freddy Galvis does. This is less surprising after noting that the Phillies are still playing Rhys Hoskins in left, even though a) Hoskins is absolutely 100 percent a first baseman and b) Tommy Joseph has no future in Philadelphia.


The Phillies have every right to be disappointed with Franco, but Franco is a 24-year-old with legitimate power and a surprisingly low strikeout rate. He still has a shot to be pretty good. Galvis is hitting a little better than usual this year, but that amounts to an 82 OPS+. He has a 77 OPS+ in his career, and he’s not even that good defensively at shortstop. There’s little point to moving him around and making him a utilityman since he’s such a subpar hitter and he’s due to make $6 million or so in arbitration, which is too much to pay him unless he’s a starting shortstop. He’s done a nice job as a bridge to Crawford these last two years, but that’s all he’s ever been. He should finish out this year as a part-timer, not a 162-game starter.


- Luis Castillo is 24, so I was hoping the Reds would give him a little more rope this month, but they’re going to shut him down after his 29th start of the season on Wednesday. I don’t blame them, considering he’s already 30 innings over his 2016 total, but he’s throwing so well and he’s not all that young. They’re probably spooked by losing Brandon Finnegan this year after a much bigger innings jump in his age-23 season last year.

Matthew Pouliot
Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of RotoWorld.com and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.