Dealing with fantasy baseball injuries or bad performances is part of the game — in every sport.
Unfortunately, those ailments or underwhelming efforts at the plate are magnified when you’re playing a 60-game season in the middle of a global pandemic — even worse when they affect a player you used a high draft pick on, thinking they’d be a key contributor to your success.
However, if you’re dealing with injuries to key infielders like Alex Bregman, Ozzie Albies, Kris Bryant, Josh Donaldson, Bo Bichette, DJ LeMahieu or Gleyber Torres, or struggles or underwhelming performances of players like Eugenio Suarez, Max Muncy or Jose Altuve, there are options out there to fill the void — and they’re not just short-term fixes.
Versatile Padres rookie Jake Cronenworth has been one of those players. He entered Friday hitting .360 with three homers, 12 RBIs, 15 runs scored, one stolen base and a 1.020 OPS. He was also in the midst of an 11-game hitting streak — in which he was 17-for-41 (.415) with a homer, seven RBIs, eight runs, four walks, a stolen base and 1.052 OPS.
Cronenworth, who came to the Padres as part of the deal that sent Hunter Renfroe to the Rays for Tommy Pham, entered Friday ranked fifth among rookies in RBIs (12), third in runs scored (15), second in hits (31), and first in average, doubles (eight), triples (two) and OPS.
Among players with a minimum of 80 plate appearances, the 26-year-old ranked in the top 20 in OBP (.415), slugging percentage (.605) and OPS. He was also third in average.
Is this just lucky hot streak? Or is this guy for real?
If you look at his numbers over five seasons in the minors (.283, 22 HR, 219 RBI, 341 runs, .769 OPS), you’ll see a lot of similarities to his first 27 games (minus the high average and OPS). He walked in 11.6 percent of his at-bats, which isn’t far off from his 8.5 percent in the bigs.
Cronenworth doesn’t strikeout a ton, whiffing in 16 percent of his at-bats. Among players with at least 80 plate appearances, that is the 40th-lowest mark (wedged in between Anthony Rendon and Donovan Solano). This is on par with what he did in the minors, as he struck out 368 times over 2,214 plate appearances (16.6 percent).
The chances of Cronenworth keeping his .360 average are unlikely. His .412 BABIP is an indicator that some regression could, and likely will, happen. But, it will not fall to a number that won’t be valuable to your fantasy roster.
One thing Cronenworth has not yet displayed to its full potential is his speed. Though he has stolen only one base in the majors, he stole 73 in the minors, 22 in 2018 and another 12 last year (all in Triple-A, where he hit .334 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs in 94 games). He also stole 42 bases at the University of Michigan.
Cronenworth also had carved out a starting spot for himself, largely thanks to outperforming Jurickson Profar, who was shifted to the outfield after Pham broke his hand last week. It also doesn’t hurt that Cronenworth is eligible at every infield spot except third base.
Roto Rage believes Cronenworth, who was the second-most added player in ESPN leagues this week, has a lot of similarities to Jeff McNeil. They’re both players who make lots of contact, don’t strike out a lot, have decent power, good speed and can maintain a high average despite an elevated BABIP.
If he is available in your league, grab him — he’s Cronenworth it!
A look at some other infielders who can fill the void:
Miami’s Jon Berti is hitting just .262 for the season, but he is 13-for-39 (.333) with a homer, five RBIs, 12 runs scored, a .861 OPS and seven stolen bases over his past 13 games. The versatile 30-year-old (he is eligible a second, third, shortstop and the outfield) is available in 70 percent or more of ESPN and Yahoo leagues.
Jonathan Schoop raised his average from .233 to .300 in his past 18 games after going 24-for-74 (.324) with four homers, 10 RBIs, 13 runs and a .894 OPS for the Tigers. He is available in 60 percent or more of Yahoo and ESPN leagues.
After hitting .171 with a .562 OPS through the Cardinals’ first 11 games, Tommy Edman is 12-for-34 (.353) with seven RBIs, five runs, a stolen base and .848 OPS. The versatile 25-year-old is available in 40 percent of more of ESPN and Yahoo leagues, and St. Louis is getting closer to full strength, which should only help Edman.
Austin Nola C/1B/2B, Mariners
Had at least one hit in 16 of his past 19 games (and entered Friday on an eight-game hit streak) — hitting .357 with five homers, 19 RBIs and a 1.060 OPS in that span. He also had an RBI in each of his past six games.
Dallas Keuchel SP, White Sox
The 2015 Cy Young winner is 3-0 with a 2.29 ERA, 11 strikeouts and a .194 opponent average in his past three starts.
Jose Abreu, 1B White Sox
Entered Friday with a 10-game hit streak, going 19-for-40 (.475) with nine homers, 18 RBIs, 11 runs and a 1.225 OPS in that span.
Sean Manaea SP, Athletics
After going 0-2 with a 7.65 ERA over his first five starts, the lefty is 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA, 7-0 strikeout-walk rate and .693 opponent OPS over his past two starts.
Josh Bell 1B, Pirates
One of the breakout stars of 2019 entered Friday hitting .190 for the season. He entered Friday without a homer since Aug. 5, and had gone 9-for-55 (.164) with 18 strikeouts and a .436 OPS in 15 games since then.
Joe Jimenez RP, Tigers
Allowed a homer in each of his past three appearances, going 1-0 with a 43.30 ERA, four walks and a .500 opponent average in that span (1 ²/₃ innings).
Joey Votto 1B, Reds
Entered Friday hitless in his previous five games (20 plate appearances). He walked twice, struck out six times and had a .100 OPS.
Mike Minor SP, Rangers
Not only has he lost five of his six starts, he has allowed a .283 opponent average and 21 earned runs over his past 24 ¹/₃ innings (7.77 ERA).
* Rookie pitchers are all the rage: After strong debuts, Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie and Atlanta’s Ian Anderson were two of three most added pitchers this week in ESPN leagues (San Diego’s Zach Davies slid in at No. 2). McKenzie, the most added pitcher, dazzled with a 10 strikeout effort against the Tigers, and Anderson fanned six while pitching six innings (five no-hit frames) against the Yankees.
* Kyle Tucker is starting to show why he is considered to be a five-tool player. After hitting .192 with 23 strikeouts and .563 OPS over his first 19 games, he raised his average to .262 after going 14-for-34 (.412) with four homers, 14 RBIs, one stolen base and a 1.029 OPS over his past 11.
* Proof that 2020 is beyond bizarre: After 29 games, Christian Yelich still can’t seem to get things going at the plate. Though he remains among the top 15 in walk percentage (15.2), he is hitting .190 with a career-high 29.6 strikeout percentage to go along with career-worst marks in OBP, SLG and OPS. Not what was expected of a top-three fantasy pick.
TEAM NAME OF THE WEEK
The Full Almonte