Minor League Prospect Note: C.J. Cron, 1B, Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Angels prospect C.J. Cron had a great game Monday night for the Inland Empire 66ers in the High-A California League, going 4-for-6 with two doubles and two homers, driving in five. He's been very hot lately, .419/.444/.814 over his last 10 games. Overall on the season, he's hitting .297/.332/.518 with 31 doubles, 25 homers, 121 RBI, 17 walks, and 66 strikeouts in 498 at-bats.
Drafted in the first round in 2011 from the University of Utah, the 6-4, 235 pound Cron leads the Cal League in RBI by a large margin, 29 over his nearest competitor. As you know, of course, RBI doesn't tell us anything real about his status as a prospect. More telling is his OPS, which ranks 15th in the league. He ranks ninth in SLG but is dragged down by his OBP, which is just 44th among batting average qualifiers.
Cron is ranked third in the league in home runs and was recently named the Best Power Prospect in the circuit by Baseball America. His home run power ranks 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale in my opinion, and there are few hitters in the minors who can hit the ball with the same authority as Cron when he's going well. On the other hand, he is quite aggressive and seldom draws walks, which hurts his OBP. On the third hand, a positive is the strikeout rate: his K-rate is unusually low for a guy with his kind of pop.
One oddity in his stat record this year is a sharp home/road split: he's hit .317/.349/.627 with 21 homers on the road, but only .273/.311/.388 with four homers at home. He is also a shaky defender at first base, making 18 errors this year and not impressing anyone with his range or speed. He may end up as a DH as he gets older.
I gave Cron a Grade B- this season and am sticking with that for now. There has been some clamor among Angels fans to promote him more quickly, but given the oddities in his record and his combination of strengths and weaknesses, I think the front office was right to keep him in High-A this year. His transition to Double-A in 2013 will be illuminating.