Welcome to the 2021 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2021. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
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No. 3, C.J. Cron: 3.4 rWAR
Welcome to the “Cron Zone.”
When former general manager Jeff Bridich signed C.J. Cron to a minor league deal prior to Spring Training, the assumption was that first base would be his to lose. Cron managed to rise to the occasion and turned out an impressive spring training performance that solidified his spot on Opening Day. What followed was one of the best seasons the Rockies have seen from a first baseman since Justin Morneau’s 2014 season.
An offensive threat
Cron became the Rockies' most productive offensive player in 2021 while also having one of the best seasons of his career. In 142 games, he slashed .281/.375/.530 with a team-leading 28 home runs and 92 RBI. Cron also provided a much-needed improvement for the Rockies at the plate by drawing a team-leading 60 walks.
Despite Cron’s slow start offensively, he progressively improved day after day and became the most reliable batter in the lineup. His best month came in August when he turned into an offensive juggernaut by slashing .387/.463/.828 with 11 home runs, 34 RBI, and a wRC+ of 217. His performance was good enough that he was recognized as the National League Player of the Month.
His best performance came on August 8 against the Miami Marlins when he drove in a career-high seven runs and blasted two homers — including his club-record third grand slam — to cap off a week in which he won the National League Player of the Week honors.
A tale of two Crons
While Cron had a phenomenal year in Colorado, he suffered the most from drastic home/road splits. In 69 games at Coors Field, Cron was one of the best hitters in baseball by slashing .326/.412./661 with 19 home runs and 68 RBI. His comfort in Colorado helped make the Rockies the best home team in all of baseball, but his struggles on the road echoed the problems the team had in general.
Away from Coors Field, Cron hit .235/.337/.397 with only nine home runs, but did increase his walk rate while on the road. He began to improve things near the end of the season, but the drastic split was concerning. Solving the troubles on the road will be a goal for Cron in 2022, which would go a long way in helping a team that is relying on the slugger. His prowess at home and patience at the plate, and his own desire to stay, were valuable enough that the Rockies decided to keep him around.
A sturdy glove
Cron’s offensive breakout was a pleasant surprise in 2021, but we cannot forget that his glove work also provided consistency the Rockies haven’t seen in a while at the position. After several few years of experimenting with non-first basemen, Cron took the reins and helped bolster the infield. Despite five errors through May 22 and four in September, Cron committed just one error between May 23 and August 31. Keeping in mind that this was the first full season that Cron had a regular spot at first base and coming off of knee surgery in 2020, he was a quality improvement.
CronSaw is ready
Cron’s efforts were rewarded when he signed a two-year extension worth $14.5 million shortly after the regular season. The deal gives Cron a home for a couple of seasons and gives prospects like Michael Toglia time to get ready to take over in the future. All in all, the signing of C.J. Cron was one of Jeff Bridich’s best moves of his tenure, and the Rockies loved being in the “Cron Zone” so much that they decided to extend their stay, and who could blame them?