C.J. Cron is Hitting Over .300
Since April 13, Cron has just one game where he was hitless, seven games with two hits and is carrying a .324 AVG and .618 SLG. Cron also has six homers, 12 Runs and 16 RBIs in that span. He’s on fire.
Fortunately for his owners, it’s not just a matter of luck, as Cron’s BABIP is .327 during that frame. Cron’s career BABIP is .298, so while it’s slightly higher than the norm, it’s not a warning sign to sell high. Cron has always had power and the potential to have CI value in 12-team leagues. With a full-time job, he’s settling in and rewarding those that believed. On the downside, Cron still strikes out a decent amount (25.0 percent) and never walks, but a .260-.270 AVG with the potential for 30 home runs is well within Cron’s ability.
Nick Kingham Makes a Grand Entrance
Kingham was one of the Pirates top prospects before dealing with Tommy John surgery in 2015. It’s been a tough road back, but a pitcher’s debut can’t go much better than it did for Kingham: 7.0 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 0 BB, 9 K. Yes, Kingham carried a perfect game into the seventh inning. Not surprisingly, he became one of the most-added players in Fantasy.
Are we looking at the next surprise ace? Not exactly, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be happy to own Kingham in all leagues. He has a solid low-90s fastball with movement and a good curve in the mid-80s. Kingham isn’t a double-digit K/9 pitcher, but he can near a strikeout per inning and has a solid WHIP, as his control continues to return post-surgery. Kingham’s movement keeps hitters off-balance and induces ground balls/poor contact enough that he can carry a high-3.00/low-4.00 ERA with decent strikeouts and that solid WHIP. Consider him a SP5 for your Fantasy Baseball rotation.
Young Pitchers are Impressing
Mike Soroka limited the Mets to one run (homer to Yoenis Cespedes) in six innings while striking out five and walking none. Fernando Romero held the Blue Jays scoreless in 5.2 innings with four hits, five strikeouts and four walks. Matt Koch has gone at least five innings with two or fewer earned runs and three or more strikeouts in all three starts. Do you pick them all up? None? Just one?
With Soroka, you find yet another one of the Braves young, potential stud prospect. Soroka is just 20 years old and had a 2.75 ERA last year in Double-A. That’s impressive at such a young age. Soroka has Major League No. 2 starter ability, albeit with control as his dominant skill, not strikeouts. He’ll likely never reach double-digit numbers in K/9, but he can settle in around a strikeout per inning with time. For now, you should expect a few bumps, as it’s tough for any young pitcher, especially one this young, to handle Major League hitters and post a sub-3.00 ERA. Posting an ERA in the 3.00-4.00 range would be a success, and Soroka is worth a look in 12-team leagues given the lack of quality pitching. Just know that you likely want to avoid the worrisome matchups.
Romero has injury concerns and already went through UCL reconstruction, but has his speed and slider movement back. Those are his top two pitching weapons, and Romero has the potential to be a No. 3 rotation piece for the Twins. The one downside with Romero is he can struggle with walks. The good news is that Romero keeps the ball down with the best ground ball percentage of the three. For this season, Romero looks to be the best bet of the trio given the better strikeout rate, high-end ground ball percentage and rotation security. Soroka could end up back in the minors if he struggles and/or if Luiz Gohara progresses in his return from injury, and Koch doesn’t have the makeup of these two, as you will see next.
As for Koch, he has the lowest ceiling with just 11 strikeouts in 17 innings as a starter, and he profiles to carry a K/9 around six. Koch has decent control with a good ground ball percentage, but he’s only a matchup and two-start play. The xFIP is at 4.27 compared to his 2.37 ERA, and that’s more of who Koch is. The .200 BABIP is going to regress significantly, and without the strikeout ability, Koch will struggle to provide value and in store for some tough outings against quality lineups.
Kenyan Middleton Heads to the DL
Middleton has elbow inflammation. He expects to return after his 10-day DL stint, but we know how elbow inflammation and pitchers mix. In his absence, Cam Bedrosian stepped up first but gave up two earned runs, three hits and the save. Bedrosian looks (looked?) to be the replacement for Middleton, but this is Mike Scioscia. Some have suggested that Justin Anderson could take over with seven Ks in 5 IP and no runs, but don’t forget that Jim Johnson is still hanging around, while Blake Parker just stinks. Hopefully Middleton does return as soon as eligible, because I wouldn’t waste any significant FAB chasing the Scioscia psycho-ness of the bullpen, but maybe… it’s Bedrosian despite the blown save?
Alen Hanson Sleeper Value?
Joe Panik was having a decent season, providing sneaky MI value in 12-team leagues or larger. He’s expected to miss 6-8 weeks now, which leaves a void at second base. Enter Hanson. He was a former hyped prospect for the Pirates, but he has a limited hit tool despite some pop in Single-A. What Hanson definitely has is speed. Over 150 games, Hanson could top 40 steals, despite hitting just .240-.250. Hanson simply hits too many balls on the ground and doesn’t have much lift or a good enough Hard% to hit for a better average. As with Billy Hamilton, a low AVG and OBP will limit the steal potential, but even Hamilton steals 50-plus regularly despite hitting .245 for his career. Hanson is a good pickup in any league with 12 teams or more for the speed alone.
Main Image Credit: AP Photo/Steve Nesius