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C.J. Cron continues to blossom in 2022

Colorado Rockies news and links for Monday, May 2, 2022

For years, it seemed that C.J. Cron couldn’t catch a break.

Despite being the Angel’s first-round pick in 2011, his time in Anaheim was mixed. He spent significant parts of three of his four years with the Angels in the minors due to nagging injuries and happening to share the position of some guy named Pujols. This, despite Cron putting up at least league average offensive numbers by OPS+ and wRC+ (minimums of 98 for both, in 2017) for each of his seasons with Los Angeles. With Pujols being firmly entrenched in Rally Monkey land, the Angels offloaded Cron to Tampa for a player to be named later - not the return you’d expect for a former first round pick.

His 2018 season in Tampa was the first where he spent the entire year with the top club, and the consistency in scenery showed in his numbers. He hit 30 home runs with an OPS+ of 123, both then career highs, while splitting time between DH and 1B. However, he put up a strikeout rate of 25.9% and a walk rate of only 6.6%, which may sound decent for today’s MLB, but wasn’t doing it for the Rays. He was designated for assignment by Tampa following the season.

He was claimed off waivers days later by the Twins and put up another solid, yet unspectacular season (25 HRs, 104 OPS+, 21.4% K%) and was non-tendered following the year.

He signed as a free agent with the Tigers for the 2020 season, and like a lot of players, it turned into a black hole for Cron. His season ended prematurely after undergoing knee surgery, and his stats leading up to that point were his previous extremes personified. Small sample size (13 games) and COVID-delayed disclaimers aside, Cron’s 2020 was a tale of two stat lines. Four homers, 141 OPS+, 17.3% BB%. Yet, .180 BA (hurt by a .182 BABIP), 30.8% K%. His stock never lower, C.J. Cron signed a minor league deal with the Rockies in early 2021. And his stock has only gone up from there.

Since last July, Bryce Harper leads all of baseball in OPS. No surprises there, he was the most hyped prospect of his generation and has more than lived up to it, recently becoming one of the few players to be a multiple time MVP. Second place? Juan Soto. Similarly, not a surprise. He’s widely viewed as the best hitter in baseball, so valuable that he recently rejected a $350 million contract extension.

Third on that list is C.J. Cron.

Sure, we’re cherry picking timeframes and stats here. Cron was a shell of his current self last June and most of July. OPS is not park adjusted. But, even with the stat being Coors-aided, when was even the last time a Rockie was in the top three league wide for a season? (Todd Helton, 2004).

Over that time frame, Cron’s last 77 games, he has absolutely raked. 21 HRs, .318 AVG, 1.014 OPS, .382 OBP, to go along with what is now a to-be-expected 21.7% strikeout rate. But the Rockies will gladly take it. C.J. Cron was the bargain of the year for the Rockies on his then minor league deal. Now, even with his two-year, $14.5 million deal, he’s looking like a contender for that title again.

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Saunders: C.J. Cron was Rockies’ April MVP, German Marquez disappointed | The Denver Post ($)

Despite an ugly four game sweep at the hands of the Phillies, the Rockies rebounded and ended April with a record of 12-9, with C.J. Cron being the biggest reason why. Patrick Saunders recaps Cron’s month as team MVP, as well as handing out awards for most disappointing player (Brendan Rodgers), best defensive player (Randal Grichuk), most valuable and most disappointing starter (Chad Kuhl and Germán Márquez, respectively), and finally most unproven player (Kris Bryant). While the Rockies did play the majority of their games at home to start this year, it’s a potentially good sign that they’ve been having so much success without Márquez and Bryant, their players with the best credentials on either side of the ball. When those two get going, the Rockies can look forward to more tallies in the win column (and hopefully a better run differential).

FanGraphs Audio: Thomas Harding Has High Hopes for the Rockies | FanGraphs

For you podcast people, Thomas Harding steps out of his normal media lane and joins the folks at FanGraphs for a look at the early season Rockies. Among other things, they hit on the potential upside that remains for the team, given hitters like Kris Bryant have not started putting it together yet. The FanGraphs representatives, Ben Clemens and Dan Szymborski, then provide their insight on the Rockies and continue to discuss other happenings around the league, among other (sometimes baseball unrelated) things.

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On the Farm

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 16, Sacramento River Cats 8

While it wasn’t as eventful as Saturday’s game, there were still fireworks to be had in Albuquerque. Garrett Hampson had four RBIs from the leadoff spot, Ryan Vilade knocked five hits and added three RBIs of his own, and Coco Montes did it all - three hits, three runs, four RBIs, all contributing to another offensive outburst. The ‘topes split the six game set with Sacramento (SFG), but put up 61 runs in the series. Montes, who was called up late last week, has made the most of his time at AAA, totaling 11 total bases and six runs scored against just two strikeouts during his three games. The Isotopes have their off-day Monday but will then look to continue their May success as they kick off a series against the Oklahoma City Dodgers (LAD) on the road Tuesday.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 3, Harrisburg Senators 2

The Yard Goats took the win at the game and the series Sunday, knocking off the Harrisburg Senators (WSH). Ezequiel Tovar (no. 6 PuRP) provided most of the offense - a walk, a single, a triple, and two runs scored - as he continues to strengthen his case for everything from a higher prospect ranking to a big league cup of coffee. The pitching staff as a whole put together a strong game, with Riley Pint (HM PuRP) continuing his comeback with another scoreless inning. Hartford participates in the league-wide off-day today, then will welcome the Binghamton Rumble Ponies starting Tuesday for a battle of Eastern League quadruped supremacy.

High-A: Spokane Indians 9, Everett AquaSox 1

Another game, another Rockies affiliate victory. Similar to their AAA counterparts, Spokane had a day offensively - eight of their nine starters recorded a hit on the day. Zac Veen (no. 1 PuRP) reached base three times, adding two runs scored and an RBI. Eddy Diaz (no. 30 PuRP) and Grant Lavigne (no. 22 PuRP) also added multiple hit days to highlight the offense. The pitching staff had help early - all nine runs were put up in the first three innings - but it didn’t stop them from delivering a solid performance in a no-pressure situation. Andrew Quezada, Adam McKillican, and Anderson Bido combined to allow just one run on seven hits. Next up for Spokane is a set against their Palouse rivals, the Tri-City Dust Devils (LAA) starting Tuesday.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 7, Stockton Ports 5

Completing the undefeated day across all levels of Rockies baseball, the Grizzlies wrapped up a six game sweep of Stockton (OAK) Sunday. Adael Amador (no. 17 PuRP and nominee for most genuinely happy roster picture) had three hits to go with a run scored and an RBI, raising his OPS on the year to 1.117. Hunter Goodman (no. 27 PuRP) hit his fifth home run of the year, a solo shot in the fifth. Fresno will return home this week for a series against the former-Rockies affiliate Modesto Nuts (now SEA) starting Tuesday.

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