Welcome to the 2023 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2023. 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. 32, C.J. Cron: -0.1 rWAR
All good things must come to an end and that included the Colorado Cron Zone in 2023.
Cron led the team with 28 homers in 2021 and posted the third-highest Colorado rWAR at 3.3. In 2022, he hit 29 homers and finished as the Rockies fifth-best player by rWAR at 2.1. After hitting two homers in the season opener against the Padres and adding another one two games later in the series, it looked like Cron was on track for another huge homer season.
But then the hot streak stopped. He hit four homers in April (for a total of six on the season) and then didn’t hit any in May. On May 15, he was placed on the IL with back spasms. He didn’t return to the roster until June 27.
Cron hit five long balls in his final month with the team before being traded to the Angels, the team he made his 2014 MLB debut with and spent four seasons with, on July 30. He finished his last season with the Rockies with 11 homers, 32 RBI, and slashed .260/.304/.476 with an OPS of .780 in 208 at-bats in 56 games.
On their way to their worst season in franchise history and with a depleted pitching staff, the Rockies decided to ship out Cron and Randal Grichuk for pitching prospects Mason Albright (Angels’ No. 8 per MLB Pipeline) and Jake Madden (No. 28).
It didn’t get better from Cron in Los Angeles as he hit .200/.256/.260 with one homer and five RBI in 50 at-bats in 15 games. The Angels went all in for the postseason, but had their fair share of injuries and didn’t make it to the playoffs.
The trade, which was during one of the most trade-active periods for the Rockies in recent memory, ended a great Cron run in a depressing Rockies stretch. Cron came to the Rockies when they were down and out. Arriving in the same month the Rockies dealt Nolan Arenado, Cron brought power in a time of a Colorado power outage.
Despite pretty notable success with the Rays and Twins in 2018 and 2019, Cron had a down year in 2020 with the Tigers. In need of a chance and believing in an altitude boost, the Rockies and Cron agreed on a deal.
Cron is a great example of how the Rockies strategy of signing free agents to minor league deals can be a win-win for both parties. The Rockies signed Cron to a one-year, $1 million minor league deal in February of 2021. All he did was be the best Rockies power hitter for the next two seasons, including the team’s lone All-Star in 2022.
After the 2021 season, the Rockies offered the Cron a two-year, $14.5 million deal. The 34-year-old is now a free agent. In the first half of 2022, Cron hit 20 homers before the All-Star break. It was an exhilarating stretch when it felt like he could hit a homer in every at-bat.
One example of that happened on May 18. The Rockies and Giants were tied 3-3 in the eighth inning. Cron came to the plate with a runner on and I told myself I would buy the BreakingT Cron Zone shirt with the Twilight Zone font if he hit a homer. Cron came through, leading the Rockies to a 5-3 win and permitting me to buy a purple Cron Zone shirt.
Even though his time as a Rockie is done, I will proudly continue to wear the shirt and be grateful the Cron Zone made a stop in Colorado when the Rockies really needed it.