★ ★ ★
No. 5, C.J. Cron: 2.1 rWAR
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of home runs, it was the age of strikeouts, it was the epoch of production, it was the epoch of ineffectiveness, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the summer of hope, it was the fall of despair, he had everything before him, he had nothing before him, he was going direct to the All-Star game, he was going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
This brief parody of the opening paragraph of Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities feels so appropriate for the contrast of C.J. Cron’s 2022 season. Despite a first half that saw Cron become the Colorado Rockies' lone All-Star representative, Cron had a steep dropoff in the second half that made his trade stock heading into the offseason more complicated, but overall he still turned in one of the better seasons offensively for the team.
Hey now, you’re a Cron Star
Cron’s first half was one for the ages in his career. Through the first 90 games of the season, Cron batted a healthy .298/.350/.552 with 21 home runs and 69 RBI. He was among the National League leaders in home runs, RBI, doubles, runs scored, slugging, and total bases, and had a 134 wRC+ by the All-Star Break. The majority of his damage in the first half came at Coors Field where he had a .344 AVG and an OPS of 1.085 with 15 home runs and 50 RBI.
His efforts were awarded the first All-Star Game appearance of his nine-year career and he became the first Rockies first baseman to be named an All-Star since Todd Helton in 2004.
Things were looking up and for a team that was already struggling offensively, Cron was a bright spot that was carrying the offense in the absence of Kris Bryant. May was one of his best overall months in the first half, and of the season, after he slashed .321/.373/.532 with six home runs and 18 RBI in 27 games.
Even though Cron struck out 100 times in the first half with just 24 walks, he was filling the role of the big-time slugger that was mashing the ball. It’s the trend that permeated through the season, as his strikeout rate was the second-highest of his career at 26% and his lowest walk rate since 2019.
However, despite numbers looking relatively the same in the RBI and home runs categories month to month, the second half was a glaring stain on his 2022 season.
Second half woes
After signing a two-year extension following the 2021 season, Cron looked to be playing beyond his contract and becoming a fabulous bargain for the type of production and offensive prowess he was supplying. Yet, the second half began to see a dropoff in effective production for Cron as the team began to spiral as a whole.
Cron’s second-half stats pale in comparison to his All-Star first half. In 60 games, Cron batted .197/.263/.341 with a meager 16 extra-base hits, including eight home runs, seven doubles, and a triple. He did manage a consistent pace of RBIs, driving in 33 in the second half, which made him the first Rockie since 2019 to drive in over 100 RBI in a season.
One of the culprits that could explain why Cron struggled so much in the second half could be dated back to an injury right before the All-Star Break. In the final series of the first half, Cron took a fastball off the hand/wrist area that many worried would potentially land Cron on the injured list for an extended amount of time. Luckily, Cron is one of the toughest and manliest things on the team and appeared to make a quick recovery and was able to participate in the All-Star Game, but the effects were long-lasting.
Cron’s hand still bothered him, making it uncomfortable to grip a bat at times and resulting in the lack of power numbers. He was hit in the same injured area at least twice more and while he still avoided the injured list, was still not 100% down the stretch. Hand injuries are a nagging thing that impedes a slugger’s ability to drive the ball and we saw that with Cron in the second half.
The state of Cron
Overall, Cron produced a solid season, where his 29 home runs led the team along with his 102 RBI. His .257/.315/.468 batting line fell more in line with his career numbers, while his defense continued to be a valuable asset at first base. The struggles became more glaring as part of the problems the team faced as a whole. Lack of protection in the lineup forced Cron to swing at more pitches, resulting in more strikeouts, and often making bad contact leading to groundballs and double plays.
The team decided to hold onto Cron at the trade deadline, but he could still be a piece they move this offseason with the emergence of Michael Toglia, Elehuris Montero, and a player like Grant Lavigne not far behind. In two seasons with Colorado, Cron has slugged 57 home runs and driven in 194 runs, so he is still quite a bargain after initially signing a minor league contract with the team, and is owed a little over $7 million in 2023.
One last thing, I couldn’t end this article without mentioning the fact that C.J. Cron hit the longest home run of the season with an absolute moon shot at Coors Field in September that went 504 feet, making it the second longest home run in StatCast history. Regardless of what happens, I love seeing CronSaw mash dingers.