Top April Performances: Sherman Johnson, C.J. Cron, and Others

Kevork Djansezian

Wrapping up our profiles of the top performers in the Angels' farm system.

(8)  Sherman Johnson - .8 WAR.  .255/.377/.392 with 2 HR and 3 SB (but 4 caught stealing)

For the third straight season, Johnson is quietly contributing upper-tier value to Angels' affiliates.  He flies under the radar because his two primary skills - onbase percentage and solid, versatile defense at third and second - don't grab the headlines. Johnson has reached base at least once in 29 of 31 games, making him far and away the most consistent performer in the 66ers' inconsistent line-up.  Despite playing second base regularly for the first time in his career, he's made just one error there in 2014.  He's an above-average glove at third, contributing +9 runs last year according to Baseball Prospectus' FRAA.  The man has future utility player written all over him, and could really develop into a good one.  He's been on a tear this week, hitting .389/.409/.444 with a pair of SB's without getting caught.

(9) C.J. Cron - .8 WAR. .306/.359/.574 with 5 HR's and 12 Dbls

In his first game with Angels, Cron showed off the approach that made him such a dangerous, if flawed, hitter in the minors: aggression early in the count backed by a quick bat and surprising contact ability.  Those tendencies made him the minor league RBI leader in 2012 even while he contributed league-average value due to so many outs between RBI's.  Regardless, consistent, hard contact should be enough to displace Raul Ibanez at this point. Can Cron do that at the highest levels yet?  I don't pretend to know the answer. He won't get first-pitch meat again like he did in his debut, and it will all come down to how he adjusts to the soft stuff that he' sure to see going forward.

(10) Wade Hinkle - .8 WAR. .388/.474/.633 with 3 HR

This year's Zach Borenstein?  The comp fits so far: competent left-handed hitter, low draft position out of a college, solid if unremarkable numbers in the Midwest League, and then, wham!, he turns into a monster in the California League.  It's a little early to call this a breakout, because Hinkle really only put in three hot weeks before a minor injury landed him on the disabled list. He's back now, and will hopefully provide some of the sock that Inland Empire's line-up so desperately needs.

(11) Kody Eaves - .7 WAR.  .278/.356/.389 with 9 Dbls and 9 SB's.

Eaves has been even more impressive so far in May, hitting .345/.387/.586 with five more doubles and three more stolen bases, so he's definitely a guy to watch. An unsung 16th round prep pick from the 2012 draft, he's a lefty swinger with legit speed and power potential. He's striking out too much right now - 24% of his PA's so far - but he's doing a phenomenal job hitting for gap power to the opposite field while running rampant on the bases. Really, check out that link. It's a rare thing to see a twenty-year old lefty hitter pound the left field gap like that.  This is why you draft prep guys: there will be attrition, but a handful will always turn their tools into performance.

In the April picture:

Tyler Deloach is carrying over his strong 2013 performance into the current year, posting well-above average rates in strikeouts (23%), groundballs (54%), and pop-ups (11%). That's the golden trifecta right there.  Despite similar peripherals against both left- and right- handed hitters, he's featuring a weird reverse platoon split because righties hit only .224 on contact against him. Very, very strange, especially for a guy who comes in from a low arm slot, because opposite handers generally get good looks. That deception /change-up combo of his must really be something. (scouting report from our own Halos 4 Life).  Garret Nuss is getting it done in Burlington's rotation due to a 53% GB rate and another weird platoon split, where lefties are managing just a .455 OPS against him. Elliot Morris fanned 30% of the hitters he faced in April, tops among all of the system's starters, but he also coughed up a couple of dingers.  Like the guys above, he's demolishing lefties, fanning them at the same 30% rate and limiting them to .077 BABIP.

Did Mike Morin go ahead and teach all of these guys change-ups?  Where are the reverse splits coming from?  Or is it just a small sample size fluke?

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