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Is it Legit? C.J. Cron's Breakout

We continue with our next edition of "Is It Legit?" to discuss another surprising breakout performer from the 2018 MLB season in order to assess his value heading into 2019.

With so many players seemingly becoming fantasy baseball darlings overnight, it can be challenging to sift through the multiple hype trains and determine which players are actually expected to produce similar, or even better, numbers the following year.

Longtime Angels platoon player C.J. Cron got his first chance at everyday at-bats with the Tampa Bay Rays last year and he took advantage by blasting 30 home runs with 74 RBI and a career-high 122 wRC+. But was this breakout simply a product of additional playing time, and is Cron due for a Logan Morrison-esque regression after going from Tampa Bay to Minnesota this offseason - just like Morrison did last year? Or is this production sustainable, making him an easy late-round target for power?

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Can Cron Repeat in 2019?

Cron saw between 339 and 407 at-bats in each season with the Angels, hitting 16 home runs in all three of them and posting ISO numbers of .177, .189 and .189, respectively.

In his first year with the Rays, he accrued 501 at-bats and blasted 30 home runs. It would be easy to point to an increased number of at-bats as the culprit, but his ISO jumped up to .240 - a sign that his power stroke showed up while playing in Florida.

However, when looking at Cron's batted ball profile, his numbers start to fall a little flat. According to Statcast, Cron's hard-hit rate actually dropped from 38.6% in 2017 to 36.6% last year. Additionally, his exit velocity dropped 1.2% and his launch angle dropped 2.8 degrees.

Despite Cron hitting the ball softer and hitting fewer fly balls, his HR output nearly doubled thanks to a massive 6.9% increase in his HR/FB rate. Hmmm. It's not all bad, as Cron's xSlash line of .262/.331/.484 actually outpaces his .253/.323/.493 mark, and x-stats pegged him for 27.8 home runs, not too far off the 30 he actually hit.

Still, there are some concerns that the power was a bit of a mirage last season. And that's not the only concern for Cron. His plate discipline numbers took a step backward, as the big slugger chased more pitches than he has in the last two seasons. Additionally, he swung and missed at the highest rate of his career. The result was a career-high 25.9% strikeout rate. While his 6.6% walk rate was a career-high, that's still a very pedestrian number that looks poor in comparison to his strikeout totals.

In summary, we are looking at a guy who blasted an empty 30 home runs in 2018 - with peripherals indicating that he needed luck on his side to even reach that total.

STEAMER projects Cron for 23 home runs next season, along with a .261 average and 71 RBI. He is now in a very crowded 1B/DH situation in Minnesota, with Nelson Cruz and Tyler Austin competing for at-bats along with Miguel Sano, who is probably no longer a viable option at the hot corner.

Honestly, I think STEAMER's projections might even be optimistic for the slugger, and I'll be staying away from him outside of AL-only formats and very deep mixed leagues.

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