Because of his high StatCast expected wOBA in 2019, fantasy baseball managers and rookie card collectors should keep an eye on C.J. Cron.
When this piece was first written, Cron was still officially a member of the Minnesota Twins. But since then, he was non-tendered and banished along with Smoak to free agency. These are the same 2019 Twins that broke the regular season home run record after all. Cron was part of that, belting 25 taters of his own. But, despite better surface numbers than his StatCast expected wOBA buddy Smoak, he finished with almost identical actual and expected wOBA marks.
The major difference with Cron is his not so elite walk rate. A lot of Smoak's value comes from his elite plate discipline. Cron's is more obvious. Coming off a super good year with the Rays, he was non-tendered by the cost conscious Tampa Bay team and picked up by the shrewd Twins. The move actually paid off for Minnesota, at least from a StatCast perspective. (The Rays replaced Cron with Avisail Garcia, which worked out fine.)
Cron had a career high in average batted ball exit velocity (91 mph) and barrel percentage (15 percent). These marks contributed to an expected .273 batting average and .530 slugging percentage. Even with his average 5.8 percent walk rate, he was a pretty nice hitter with an expected .366 wOBA.
Unfortunately, Cron's actual results fell short of those marks. He had a .253 batting average and a .469 slugging percentage in "real life." Those numbers fall in line with his career averages, which may lead casual observers to say, hey he is what he is. But, we are not casual. It seems that Cron did actually grow as a hitter with Tampa. He actually improved in 2019. It just didn't show on the back of his baseball card.
Going into just his age 30 season, Cron could have yet another career year like he did in 2018. The rolling expected wOBA chart shows he really only had one bad month (July) and a couple of bad stretches in September. In 2018, he had one truly awful stretch in late June through mid July. Seeing the consistency of expected numbers above league average is a good sign going forward.
Like with Smoak, C.J. Cron rookie cards are not popular. However, his 2011 Bowman Chrome Auto has sold a fair amount of times on eBay. The prices are quite varied. But, the most notable sale was a Gold Refractor numbered to a mere 50 copies graded 9.5 Gem Mint and a 10 auto sold for roughly $45 shipped. Raw copies of the base Chrome Auto have sold for anywhere between $6 and $12 shipped.
Of course, it seems the best investment is the BGS 9.5 autos, especially the refractors, which are limited to 500 copies. Note that a graded non-refractor brought only $11.50 in July. But, another copy of that card brought $21 in early August. A refractor, though, brought $23 in late August. Clearly the refractor is a better value.
Now with the Detroit Tigers, C.J. Cron can be expected to share the first base/designated hitter duties with Miguel Cabrera. What prices can we expect for Cron graded rookie refractor autos if he breaks out? It wouldn't be a surprise if his refractors get to be around $35 if he gets hot. The only issue is that the Tigers are headed to nowhere.
However, it's entirely possible that Cron becomes a Trading Deadline trade chip. If Cron performs well, he could end up being dealt to a playoff contender. If Cron is traded, gets hot on a team that makes the playoffs, and becomes a major factor in a playoff run, his cards could get hot. Then, $50 for one of his Bowman Chrome rookie refractor autos isn't out of the question. If you can get a steal on a refractor graded BGS 9.5 with 10 auto, it may be worth a shot. Just mind the hot streaks and you may have a nice flip.
Now, he just has to live up to those expected batted ball numbers, and find a playoff team...