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  • Statcast Wants C.J. Cron Back – Do You?


    Patrick Wozniak

    One of the few questions regarding position players that Minnesota must address this offseason is whether to tender a contract to C.J. Cron. Cron’s thumb injury made his second half as painful to watch as it probably was to play, and the numbers weren’t pretty (.293 wOBA vs. .341 wOBA first half). Combining Cron’s adequate-at-best defense and ineffectiveness on the base paths with his slightly above league-average offensive makes non-tendering Cron a definite possibility. However, if we look at Cron’s season through the lens of MLB’s Statcast, it was actually pretty impressive, and it certainly helps build a case for bringing Cron back.

    Image courtesy of © Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

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    Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is a good way to look at how a player’s weighted batting results correspond to run scoring and gives us a number that comes out looking like on-base percentage. MLB Statcast does about the same thing with xwOBA, but instead of using the player’s actual results, it uses the exit velocity and launch angle on a hit ball and predicts the expected result based on previous hit balls with the same specifications (essentially taking defense out of the equation).

    While Cron’s wOBA wasn’t all that impressive (.328 vs .318 league average) his xwOBA was .366, which puts him in the 87th percentile of MLB hitters. The difference between his xwOBA and wOBA is third amongst hitters with at least 350 plate appearances, which suggests Cron’s output could increase substantially in 2020. His expected slugging percentage (xSLG) was .531 (23rd overall) and the difference between his expected and actual slugging was second in the league. Cron also ranked above the 80th percentile in exit velocity and hard hit % and his 15.0 barrel % was in the top five percent of the league. All in all, pretty impressive considering he spent much of the season playing through the thumb injury.

    All of this points to the fact the Cron was pretty unlucky with the actual results of his hit balls in 2019. For his career Cron’s xwOBA slightly exceeds his wOBA, but the two were actually even in 2018 at .347, so it is not at all unreasonable to expect Cron’s actual and expected numbers to approach parity next year.

    Admittedly, the Twins have a lot more than Statcast results to consider with Cron. He is still only 29-years-old and is projected to make between $7-$8 million in arbitration. While Cron’s projected salary probably wouldn’t do much to inhibit Minnesota from spending on much needed starting pitching, the Twins may want to save more to go big. The Twins could also roll with Miguel Sano or some combination of Sano, Mitch Garver, and Marwin Gonzalez at first. Prospects Brent Rooker and Alex Kirilloff could also be ready at some point in 2020, if not out of spring training. And of course, Minnesota could always go out and sign a free-agent to cover first, but the options don’t look all that enticing.

    Finally, Cron’s thumb injury makes the situation a little murkier. The injury twice landed Cron on the IL and he was not the same hitter after the injury.

    Earlier this week he had his injured right thumb surgically repaired and should have ample time for rest and rehab prior to spring training.

    https://twitter.com/DWolfsonKSTP/status/1186725007856148481?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

    For Cron to be the hitter that Twins fans saw in the first half of the season, he will need to be at full health, something that Minnesota will undoubtedly contemplate before committing to him.

    What do you think? Should Minnesota bring Cron back, use internal options, or sign a free agent? Please leave your comments below.

    Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Not registered? Click here to create an account. To stay up to date, follow Twins Daily on Twitter and Facebook.

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    What makes a champion is always looking to improve the team, not stay idle. Cron's overall performance for the year suggests he should be paid less than last year, not close to double what he made in 2019. But it's not even the $. It's that it a position that could be improved. Cron should definitely be non-tendered, and go from there. If the position cannot be improved, pay him what he earned, not what a formula of arbitration suggests.

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    What makes a champion is always looking to improve the team, not stay idle. Cron's overall performance for the year suggests he should be paid less than last year, not close to double what he made in 2019. But it's not even the $. It's that it a position that could be improved. Cron should definitely be non-tendered, and go from there. If the position cannot be improved, pay him what he earned, not what a formula of arbitration suggests.

    Cron was injured. How about Buxton ?

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    Let Cron walk, we need money for pitching, and signing a stopgap 3B or SS would make more sense, moving Sano to 1B.  Our infield was below average defensively last year, so move Sano to 1B, Arreaz to 3B, Polonco to 2B, and sign a stopgap defense wiz to man SS until Lewis arrives (or Javier who is a little further away).  We need to pump a lot of money into pitching, so this makes the most sense. 

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    What makes a champion is always looking to improve the team, not stay idle. Cron's overall performance for the year suggests he should be paid less than last year, not close to double what he made in 2019. But it's not even the $. It's that it a position that could be improved. Cron should definitely be non-tendered, and go from there. If the position cannot be improved, pay him what he earned, not what a formula of arbitration suggests.

    I dunno. I doubt he makes it past waivers. The amount of teams that are shedding payrolls would probably love a player of his caliber available on a 1 year basis. Even if not picked up on waivers, we'd have to outbid the free agency market which may require a multi year deal. Cruz is in his last year. Dangling a reasonable extension with the leverage of a non-tender is an option I'd look at. I shudder to think what our infield defense would have looked like without Cron scooping everything for most of the year.

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    The money should not be an issue, the question is if the team is better with or without him.  The thumb issue is the big question, if you asked this at all star break you say for sure you bring him back, but his second half was not good at all.  I think the Twins will have to see what other options would be out there before they make the call. 

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    Budget should not be the consideration - we have underspent the last two years.  The question is the team quality not the budget.  There are enough dollars to go around if the team wants to acquire someone.

    The QO is too high, make a decent offer and then if he walks it is his decision.

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    It's all about the budget. If signing him stops them from signing a great pitcher, no way.

    If signing him has no effect on off season and during the season deals, I'm indifferent

    Exactly. Seems $7M wouldn't stop us from signing anyone we go after - but if it does, don't do it. Whether prospects Kiriloff or Rooker are ready next spring or not, we can play Gonzalez and Sano at 1B - I'd like to see Cruz there at National league parks. 3B can also be manned by either Gonzalez or Sano depending on other IF options. Arraez seemed good at 3B if needed and maybe Gordon makes the team at 2B. We need pitching the most of anything and I'd throw Cron's $7M at pitching and probably take a pass on resigning him.

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    Yes. With 26 man roster in 2020 Twins have a need and spot for Cron. Deep minor league system currently doesn’t have a 3rd baseman ready for 2020. Should have one in 2021.

    If the larger roster is brought up to suggest that Cron makes it only as a 26th man, it would seem unusual to pay millions in salary for that. He's the wrong half of a platoon, as he was substandard against righties in 2019. OTOH, maybe a bench bat who mashes lefties isn't the dumbest idea for a 26th man... I guess that puts me on the fence but still leaning toward replacing him.

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    Budget should not be the consideration - we have underspent the last two years.  The question is the team quality not the budget.  There are enough dollars to go around if the team wants to acquire someone.

    The QO is too high, make a decent offer and then if he walks it is his decision.

    He's only arb-eligible, thus under team control, so a QO isn't really something to consider for him anyway.

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    Great article as a discussion starter, and you present a compelling argument!

     

    A question on the Statcast data -- does it take shifts into account? In other words, are the "expected" results against a normal defensive alignment? Because if the expected stats don't take shifts into account and many of his outs are hit into a shift, then maybe there's not as much difference as it appears. 

     

    Beyond that: 

    1. Gonzalez can play first, but I'd rather not lock him in there. 
    2. Sano can play first, but he's probably not going to be great defensively anywhere. Being at third uses his two biggest defensive assets -- his arm and his ability to come in on the ball. The likelihood of him becoming an average 3B may be greater than the likelihood of being average at 1B in that he has experience there vs. starting mostly from scratch. Think about what it would be like to move him to RF, for example.
    3. Though Rooker/Kiriloff could kick the door in, I'd rather not have that as the plan for a contending team. If it happens, cool. That's a good problem to have. I'd rather have good problems than bad problems. As someone noted somewhere, he those guys do kick in the door, Cron could be trade bait. Or, it Cron is playing well, one of the young guys could also be trade bait as a "major league ready player" that young teams seem to covet. 
    4. The FO does seem to place a premium on having good "clubhouse guys." If Cron checked the box this year, that's an advantage to resigning him over taking your chance on a different one-year fill in.

    So with all those, I lean toward "yes." On the other hand, what's the plan at C? I'd like a veteran besides Garver and Astudillo. If the choice is between a fairly-priced Cron and a fairly-priced Castro, I might consider Castro.

     

    Edited by IndianaTwin
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    It's an interesting question. If there's an upgrade, take it. If not, sign him. Sano at first? Gonzalez at third? Is Gonzalez signed? Lots of variables here. In other words, I don't think he's essential, unless there's something about his clubhouse presence that I don't know. I'd probably prefer two IB/Outfielders to provide more options for the lineup when Buxton inevitably injures himself trying to make an impossible catch; 2019 was such an outlier, except for pitching needs, that I don't think anybody can predict, except statistically, how the offense will fare next year. I want them spending every available dollar on pitching.

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    Yes to bringing him back if the thumb checks out. No brainer to me when I see what he did in 2018 and the first half of last season. Personally, I think a raise from $4.8M to the projected $7.7 is a little high, but whatever. It isn't enough to dismay me from bringing him back.

     

    Moving Sano to 1B doesn't guarantee any improvement, now there is a hole at 3B to fill, it's really too early to not allow Sano more developmental time at 3B, future 1B options are at least part of a season away, and I really don't want to take Marwin out of his current role by making him a full time starter at one spot.

     

    [breath]

     

    Healthy, it's a no brainer to me for a 1yr deal

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    and I really don't want to take Marwin out of his current role by making him a full time starter at one spot.

    If not having Cron leads to Marwin being our 1B starter then I re-cast my ballot.

     

    Marwin's 2017 was his career year, and the Marwin we have now does not have near enough the bat for starter's numbers at such an offense-first position.

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    There were lots of stats explaining how well Cron hit the ball and wasn't rewarded for his above league average efforts. There was little mention of how his defensive shortcomings contribute to the less than stellar performance of he other three infielders. I realize that 1B is a bat first postion. But considering the question marks surrounding the pitching staff, some consideration has to be given to improving the teams defense. Somewhere! Since we seem locked in on Sano, Polanco, and Arrez it doesn't seem that defense will be addressed next year, yet again

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    Can we get off this idea that Sano is going to "develop?" He isn't going to get better. Period. Period.

     

    Less bad /=/ better.... It means less bad. One more year with Cron at 1b, Sano at 3b, with young players getting MLB experience sounds perfect to me. I'm an advocate of moving Sano ASAP, but outside of Lewis, Twins don't have a good solution.

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    Can we get off this idea that Sano is going to "develop?" He isn't going to get better. Period. Period.

     

    Less bad /=/ better.... It means less bad. One more year with Cron at 1b, Sano at 3b, with young players getting MLB experience sounds perfect to me. I'm an advocate of moving Sano ASAP, but outside of Lewis, Twins don't have a good solution.

    What did you base this knowledge of the future on?

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    What did you base this knowledge of the future on?

    The many big men that have played 3b and were forced to move to 1b. Sano is the most lean he's been since he was a teen. It has paid dividends for him, but isn't going to last. It is inevitable, not in a Thanos way. Who is the last big man that has actually improved defense at 3b after 25? Find one and I'll digress.

     

    Again... if anyone thinks he will move well enough to be a below average 3b... He'll be able to play 1b just as well. Move him an get someone that can actually add value defensively and save runs. Sano WILL NEVER be that guy. This shouldn't even be a debate.

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    I like CJ but seems like $7-$8M is too much. Here’s a thought, trade with Yankees for a very controllable LH hitting first baseman, Mike Ford. LeMahieu and Voit provide Yankees with enough so Ford is expendable. Ford’s MLB stats in 2019: 143 AB’s, 12 HR’s, .909 OPS. Major League Mininum salary for a number of years; spend the savings on a pitcher and get a high upside player w upside.

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    The many big men that have played 3b and were forced to move to 1b. Sano is the most lean he's been since he was a teen. It has paid dividends for him, but isn't going to last. It is inevitable, not in a Thanos way. Who is the last big man that has actually improved defense at 3b after 25? Find one and I'll digress.

     

    Again... if anyone thinks he will move well enough to be a below average 3b... He'll be able to play 1b just as well. Move him an get someone that can actually add value defensively and save runs. Sano WILL NEVER be that guy. This shouldn't even be a debate.

    We're only talking defense here?

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