As the Angels struggle to vault themselves into contention despite the absence of Josh Hamilton, Kole Calhoun, David Freese and Dane De La Rosa, the focus has suddenly been been thrust onto their kids. Yes, the Angels apparently do have actual living, breathing prospects, despite what you might read elsewhere about the barren wasteland that is supposedly their farm system.
Mike Morin, Grant Green and, in particular, C.J. Cron are suddenly some of the most important players on the roster. Be it just for a few weeks, in the case of Green, or the rest of the season, as it may be with Cron, those youngsters are going to need to produce. So, can they actually do that?
Grant Green is a player that Angel fans have actually seen before. Last season, in just 119 plate appearances, Green posted a 104 wRC+ and .319 wOBA with the Angels. That is offset a bit by an 0-for-16 stint he had with the A’s prior to his trade, putting his 2013 line at 83 wRC+ and .286 wOBA. It is a small sample, but Green has shown the ability to be something more than just a replacement level guy who will keep the seat warm for injured players.
Given how little we’ve seen of Green, we might better off looking at the various projection systems out there to see what they think Green might be capable of. According to ZiPS, Green is projected for an 85 wRC+ and a .291 wOBA. Steamer has Green pegged at 102 wRC+ and .315 wOBA. PECOTA, which doesn’t offer wOBA and wRC+, has Green’s mean projection coming in at .266/.305/.389 and a .260 TAv. Offensively, Green appears to have a real shot at being useful. There is a unifying thread in the projections that Green isn’t going to flash much power though, so his value is almost entirely tied to his ability to hit for average. His overall value takes a major hit though since he is likely to be a negative on defense, wherever he plays on the field. All in all, Green seems like he should be fine as a super-sub, but the Halos probably don’t want him playing everyday once everyone gets healthy.
Though he hasn’t gotten much of a shot yet, Mike Morin could wind up being a savior in the bullpen. He may not have the flashy minor league numbers of Cam Bedrosian or the eye-popping radar gun readings of R.J. Alvarez, Morin is a very intriguing relief prospect. He’s coming off of a 2013 minor league campaign in which he posted a 1.94 ERA, 9.5 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 across, High-A, Double-A and the Arizona Fall League. He got off to a fast start in 2014 and has thus far looked solid in three appearances with the Angels. So far, so good, right?
From a projection standpoint, the reviews are a bit mixed. The good news is that even in the worst case scenario, he should be useful. PECOTA has Morin’s mean projection at a 4.16 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9. Like I said, it isn’t great, but in this bullpen, it will certainly play. ZiPS is more promising at a 3.78 ERA, 7.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. Again, not the high leverage arm the Angels are looking for, but that is a usable middle reliever. Where it gets intriguing is with Steamer where Morin is projected for a 3.06 ERA, 8.2 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. Even that won’t stop people from begging the Halos to call up Alvarez and Bedrosian, but it should push Kevin Jepsen closer and closer to being out the door and who wouldn’t be happy with that?
And now the big guy that has captured everyone’s attention, C.J. Cron. You’ll find a lot of mixed opinions on Cron throughout the internet. Heck, even here at MWAH Scotty and I are pretty divided on him. The Cron that worries me is the one that is terribly overaggressive and gets himself out swinging at pitcher’s pitches. There is hope though that after some second half adjustments last season that he has toned his approach down some.
Those hopes didn’t make it into the projection systems, however. PECOTA sees Cron posting a .251/.277/.406 slash line which translates to a .249 TAv. That is exactly the profile of the version of Cron that makes me skeptical. ZiPS is actually even more pessimistic at .247/.279/.377 which plays out to a 84 wRC+ and .290 wOBA. Steamer is really the only lone defender of Cron at .283/.311/.429 which is a 108 wRC+ and .324 wOBA. Even then, that hardly paints him as the guy who is going to solve the DH problem especially since it still forecasts Cron seldom ever drawing a base on balls.
What might make the most sense for Cron is to use him more judiciously. In just a few days he has somehow already catapulted himself into the full-time DH batting clean-up. Given his lack of experience and the deficiencies in his approach, it might make more sense to keep him in a strict platoon at DH and move him further down the lineup. That would require Ibanez to uphold his end of the platoon arrangement, but that’s a different story for a different time. Figuring out the best way to deploy Cron really is paramount for the Halos as he has a much better chance of sticking on the active roster once everyone gets healthy. Unless he totally bombs out in the next two weeks, there is a role for him, he just needs to grab it and the coaching staff needs to put him in the best position to do that.