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.
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.
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.
This story first appeared at Twins Daily and was re-shared through a collaboration with Bring Me The News.