C.J. Cron grew up with baseball. Three years into his professional career, he continues to grow as a player. The son of longtime minor league manager Chris Cron, he is the most-promising hitter in the Angels’ system. He also remains a work in progress.
A first-round pick in 2011 out of the University of Utah, Cron has power to match his size. Listed at 6-foot-4, 235 lbs,, he could become an impact hitter in the middle of a big league lineup. First he’ll have to rein in his free-swinging ways. In 1,281 plate appearances as a professional, he’s drawn just 50 free passes.
Cron spent the 2013 season with Double-A Arkansas, where he hit .274/.319/.428, with 14 home runs. He finished the year in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .413/.467/.700, in 80 at bats, for the Mesa Solar Sox. Cron talked about his game during the final week of the AFL campaign.
Cron on his father‘s influence: “He was hands-on growing up. He basically taught me how to hit. Now it’s more of him just giving me advice when I ask for it. I already kind of know what he’s going to say, but it’s still nice to know he’s a phone call away if I have any questions.”
On his hitting approach: “I’m trying to hit everything back up the middle. Get my bat on a good path for as long as possible. Try to hit the fastball into the gaps. That way, if I get an off-speed pitch I’m not too far out in front and have the left side of the field to work with. For me, it’s all about sending the ball back where it came from, and trying to damage with every pitch.
“I don’t ever try to pull home runs. I try to hit the ball over the fence dead center. I try to stay inside the ball and have a nice bat path. If the pitcher happens to make a mistake with an off-speed pitch, my bat is on the plane and I’ll catch it a tad bit more out in front. That approach gives me a little more room to work.”
On what his spray chart looks like; “You’ll see doubles to both gaps, maybe a tad bit more to right center. You’ll see home runs to left and left center, and occasionally to right. I hit the ball all over the park. That’s what I grew up doing, using the whole field. Whatever the pitcher gives me, I try to go with it.”
On adjustments and hitting 13 fewer home runs than in 2012; “Baseball is a game of adjustments. Pitchers are going to do whatever it takes to get you out, so if you’re not adjusting to what they do, it will throw you off. You can’t keep letting a guy get you out with the same stuff over and over again. I want to have an understanding of who is on the mound and what he wants to do.
“My power was definitely down this season, although it came back pretty well in the playoffs and has carried over to the Fall League. I think it was just one of those fluky things where I was hitting the ball on a line a little more than I usually do, instead of getting under it. I’m not worried about the power numbers I had this year.”
On batting practice and who had the most power on his AFL team: “That’s a good question. I’ll say this, it’s fun to hit BP with these guys. Any time me, [Jorge] Soler, [Kris] Bryant, and [Steven] Souza are in the same group, we try to outdo each other. I can’t say who has the most, but we all have some pretty good juice.
“It’s fun to let loose in BP, which we can do more here [compared to the regular season]. I think it’s good to let it loose in BP a little bit. In games, we’re usually swinging with everything we’ve got, so we might as well practice that. That’s my theory. It’s a let-it-loose swing, but you’re also keeping the bat under control. Have some good game swings, and kind of try to impress.”
On plate discipline and strikeouts; “I like to swing the bat. I like to be aggressive and don’t like to take pitches I think I should hit. At the same time, I need to do a better job of being selective. I’ve been working on that. Here in the Fall League, I think I’ve walked about every other game, and I improved about 25 percent from high-A to Double-A. I think there’s some improvement going on. The more reps I get, the better I’ll be able to recognize pitches, and the more quality at bats I’ll have.
“I don’t worry about [strikeouts]. I don’t go up there trying not to strike out. I go up there trying to put a good swing on the ball. The Angels don’t mind the strikeouts. They said they don’t mind as long as I’m having good at bats and taking good swings.
“Sometimes making contact can get me in trouble. I’ll swing at a pitch on the outer black and make weak contact, where I should have taken it to make the count 0-1, or 1-1. I need to hone in on getting a good pitch to hit — something I can do damage with — and not simply make contact.”
On defense and athleticism; “Right now I’m a first baseman, and I’m going to keep working on that until someone tells me to do something else. I think I’ve come a long way. My first year of playing first base for a full season was high-A. I got better this season on things like knowing which balls I should be going after and which ones I should let my second baseman get. Things like that that improve with repetition.
“Athleticism is huge in defense. It’s something everybody needs to work on, and I’m continually working on it. I‘m working on every part of my game.”
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