Los Angeles Angels Backup Plan: Matt Joyce and C.J. Cron


Every Los Angeles Angels’ fan is likely aware of Josh Hamilton’s reported relapse and subsequent confession earlier this week at league offices in New York City. While the length of his possible suspension remains unclear, we know he will not be donning Angels’ uniform anytime soon. Getting his life back on track should be Hamilton’s sole focus right now, but the Halos have to cultivate a plan to replace his production.

Gary Klein of the LA Times writes that Matt Joyce may be called upon to function as the everyday left fielder in Hamilton’s absence. Joyce was originally pegged to be the Angels’ designated hitter in 2015, but Alden Gonzalez suggests C.J. Cron could see extended playing time as the DH. I contend the answer to replacing Hamilton’s production lies in a combination of Matt Joyce and C.J. Cron.

The Angels dealt for Matt Joyce this past December from the Tampa Bay Rays. The Detroit Tigers originally drafted Joyce in 2005, but he has spent the last six seasons playing with the Rays. The 30-year-old has hit .250 with 88 home runs and 313 RBI’s across 2182 career at bats. He has posted a career on base percentage of .342, and has slugged .441. Joyce’s best season came in 2011 when he was named an all star after hitting .277, with 19 home runs, 75 RBI’s, and 13 stolen bases.

More from LA Angels News

While never considered a Gold Glove candidate, Matt Joyce has developed in a steady left fielder. Joyce is coming off a nice season, where he posted a .986 fielding percentage in left field. His 2.02 range factor per 9 innings was slightly over the league average of 2.01. Joyce may not possess the athleticism of Josh Hamilton, but he has a very strong arm, as illustrated by his five outfield assists last season.

The offensive numbers Matt Joyce has been able to produce over the past two seasons are very similar to those of Josh Hamilton. Joyce has posted a slash line of .244/.339/.401 across 831 at bats since the beginning of 2013. Hamilton has hit .255/.316/.426 since joining the Halos two years ago. Joyce has hit 45 doubles, 27 home runs and driven in 99 runs batting in the bottom half of the Rays underwhelming lineup. Hamilton has tallied 53 doubles, clubbed 31 home runs and driven in 123 runs hitting in the heart of the Angels lineup. The takeaway is that Joyce does a better job getting on base, while Hamilton hits for more power.

The Los Angeles Angels selected C.J. Cron in the first round of the 2010 draft. The powerful Phoenix, AZ product has plodded his way through the minors, and in 2014 Cron made his Major League debut. The slugger wasted little time making an impact with the Halos, recording three hits and two RBI’s in his first big league game. Cron hit .256 with 11 home runs and 37 RBI’s across 242 at bats as a rookie in 2014. His .289 on base percentage was disappointing, but the 25-year-old flashed his prodigious power, slugging .450.

C.J. Cron was thought to be on the bubble this spring after the acquisition of Joyce, but he appears likely to be penciled in as the everyday designated hitter until Hamilton returns. Cron boasts some of the best pure power on the club, and he has the ability to hit 25 home runs this season. For this to happen however, he will need to show a more mature approach at the plate. Cron was a free swinger in 2014, often swinging at the first pitch, and it hurt him. FanGraphs shows that he swung at 40% of pitches out of the strike zone; obviously this is not a recipe for success. If he can stay within himself, he has the potential to be a key contributor in the middle of the Halos’ lineup for years to come.

Josh Hamilton has not been the same elite power threat since signing with the Angels. His .414 slugging percentage in 2014 fell well shy of Cron’s .450. Hamilton hit 10 home runs across 338 at bats last season; Cron hit 11 dingers in 242. Hamilton is still the more polished hitter, but Cron’s immense upside is undeniable. With Cron’s pop, if he can work counts better and learn how to be a situational hitter, he could play a much bigger role on the Angels this season than he did in 2014.

Honestly, I think the Angels will miss Josh Hamilton’s reputation more than anything. His production has been very disappointing, but Hamilton is a presence in the middle of the lineup. Opposing pitchers fear the name Josh Hamilton. He has a proven track record of being one of the best hitters the game, and this causes opposing managers and pitchers to game plan around him. Seeing the names Matt Joyce and C.J. Cron on a lineup card does not have the same effect…yet.

Replacing a player of Josh Hamilton’s caliber is never an easy task. Matt Joyce does a great job getting on base, and he should have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs batting out of the cleanup spot. Cron has Major League power, and he could provide the Angels with a true power threat in the heart of their order. Both Joyce and Cron have holes in their games, but their combined numbers should come pretty close to replicating Hamilton’s production.

Next: Analyzing the Angels Offseason

More from Halo Hangout