The MWAH prospect countdown marches on with the biggest bat (and trade chip?) in the entire Angel farm system.
Position: 1B Highest Level: High-A
Bats:Rightt Throws: Right Height: 6'4" Weight: 235 lbs.
Age: 23 Born: 1/5/90
2012 Season Stats
High-A: 557 PA, .293 AVG, .327 OBP, .516 SLG, 32 2B, 2 3B, 27 HR, 123 RBI, 72 SO, 3 SB, 4 CS, .295 BABIP
Contact – B+. Cron has little or no problem catching up with fastballs in the zone and has shown the ability to adjust on breaking pitches better than most prospects. It’s actually quite a rarity to see a hitter as big as C.J. is and with his kind of power to be able to make as much consistent contact as he does.
Power – A. Cron is one of the premier power bats in all of minor league baseball. In fact, with the exception of Joey Gallo from the Rangers and Yasiel Puig from the Dodgers, there isn’t a prospect in the minor leagues with as much raw power as Cron has. Given his build, size, ever increasing strength, the way he loads and his swing, I don’t see any reason why Cron can’t mature into a 30+ HR hitter at the major league level soon.
Discipline – C-. I’m tempted to lower this grade to a “D” but then common sense takes over. Cron was hyped coming out of college as an extremely polished bat and so far, we haven’t see the walks in the minor leagues the way he walked in college. At the same time, Cron has an excellent eye for the strike zone and doesn’t chase nearly as many pitches as most other prospects. I also realize that whenever Cron makes contact (especially away from home in the hitter friendly Cal League) it usually results in an extra base hit. So what incentive has there been for C.J. to walk? I personally find it hard to believe that C.J. would just forget about balls and strikes since college, so I’m assuming we’ll see more BB from him once he reaches an environment that forces him to reach base in this manner, like the Texas League (AA).
Speed – D. Yeah, he’s not fast. He’s slightly below average for a first baseman. He’s no Bengie Molina, but I doubt he’ll challenge anyone to a foot race anytime soon.
Arm – I (incomplete). We can’t fairly grade Cron on this. He had a “plus” arm in college when he was a catcher until his junior year. He suffered a torn labrum which ultimately resulted in him shifting over to first base. He looked to have an average enough arm while fielding the position this past season, though no real “feel” for the ball. In late August he finally went under the knife and had shoulder surgery. I’m not entirely sure when we’ll see him throwing full time again, hopefully by the end of 2013, but I am hopeful he’ll have a much improved arm by the time he’s 100%.
Performance – A. Cron was an RBI away from breaking the organizational single season record before he opted for surgery. The year before in Orem, he was on pace to set league records for homeruns and RBI’s until an unfortunate knee injury. Still, this past season in the Cal League, Cron hit .293 and mashed 32 doubles and 27 homeruns. And those numbers were actually knocked back down to Earth due to Cron playing his home games in the only pitching friendly park in the Cal League. At home, Cron his .267 with only 5 HR’s. Away from San Bernardino, Cron hit .318 with 22 HR. Had the Angels still played their home games in Rancho, Cron could have made a serious run at breaking Brandon Wood’s records set back in 2005. And he did it all while rehabbing a knee he had surgery on and with a torn labrum.
Once he’s fully healthy, Cron may do some serious damage. Having said that, fans will likely have to wait for that to happen, because in 2013, he appears headed for the pitching friendly Texas League and his home park will perhaps be the worst environment for a hitter in minor league baseball. Consider this, Mark Trumbo, with all his prodigious power only mustered 15 HR in the Texas League. So numbers won’t tell the whole story for C.J. Cron in 2013.
Projection – B+. Power hitting 1B that can hit for average are a valuable commodity. Right now, Cron has the look of a .275+ hitter that can smack 30+ HR’s in the major leagues. He’ll need to prove himself in AA first, and will need to prove he can work a walk, but once he does, he should be a very intriguing player. One thing to look out for though, he’s blocked at 1B/DH by both Pujols and Trumbo. So it’s possible that Cron’s future may reside outside of the organization. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
Estimated MLB Arrival Date – Second half of 2014.
(*As always, the above scouting report is provided by Scotty Allen of LA Angels Insider)
Season Summary: Cron drew a lot of headlines this season thanks to his impressive output at Inland Empire. Smacking 27 homers will certainly garner a lot of attention, but what really got him the headlines was his 123 RBIs, which led the entire California League and actually ended up being an Angels franchise minor league record. That's great and all, but RBIs might just be one of the most useless stats when it comes to evaluating a prospects. If anything, that big shiny number masks certain flaws in Cron's profile. For example, C.J. was strangely only able to post a .685 OPS at home despite it being a hitter-friendly park in a hitter-friendly league. It probably means nothing, but it is something worth watching, especially as he makes the leap to Double-A where the hitting environment isn't nearly as friendly.
The real stat to concern yourself with is Cron's 3.1% walk rate. That's a pretty dreadful number when you consider how much hype Cron get for having such an advanced approach at the plate when he was drafted in 2010. That low walk rate is offset somewhat by his lack of strikeouts, fanning just 12.9% of the time. While we can chalk up the lack of walks to Cron's impressive ability to make contact, that doesn't change the fact that he is much more of a free-swinger than anyone expected and it could very well put an artificial ceiling on his career.
One other major issue for Cron is his health. He was relatively healthy this season, but he did finally have surgery on his throwing shoulder at the end of the year. It hasn't hindered his ability to stay on the field, but the injury issues he has faced have definitely impacted his defensive work and he needs all the help he can get in that area.
What to Expect in 2013: Cron will be joining all the rest of the Halos' top prospects in Double-A this year. There his approach will really be put to the test. If he really is just feasting on less talented pitchers and not walking as a result, that will become apparent against the big leap in competition in the Texas League. Most players would have to worry about their power output at Dickey-Stephens Park, but Cron just has so much raw power that it really isn't a concern for him.
What is a concern is Cron's long-term future with the franchise. The first base and DH slots are now spoken for in Anaheim for the next several years, leaving Cron nowhere to go once he is ready. That will certainly make him a desired commodity on the trade market and the Angels might be willing to oblige since they have more leverage trading him now rather than in a year or two when he is demolishing Triple-A while blocked by Pujols and Trumbo. Even though the Angels have a thin farm system, don't be the least bit surprised if they make Cron available as a result.