Kevin’s father is Chris Cron, who played two years in the majors and was managing his son on the Reno Aces up until this call-up. Cron is a local boy - at least to some extent. Born in California, he went to Mountain Pointe High School in Ahwatukee, where he played catcher - so, y’know... :) He was a devastating force his senior year in 2011, batting .560 with 27 home-runs, the latter setting an Arizona high-school record at any level, which still stands. He could have been a Seattle Mariner, as he was picked by them in the 3rd round, 75 picks after his big brother C.J. went to the Angels. Kevin went to college instead, saying, “The timing wasn’t right.”
By the time he entered the draft again, however, his stock had slipped and it was not until the fourteenth round that he was chosen by the side he had supported growing up. He said, “When you are going through the whole draft process, you aren’t concerned with what team it is. But when it comes to fruition that it’s the team you grew up rooting for, it’s pretty special.” The power which he showed in high-school has followed him through the Arizona minor-league system, where he has hit at least twenty home-runs each full season. His number tracked up last year, when he batted .309 with 22 HR in 104 games for the Aces. But they’re off the charts this year, with just one hewer home-run, in just 44 games.
The 26-year-old can play both first- and third-base, and the news yesterday that Jake Lamb’s rehab has hit a road-bump likely played into the decision to promote Kevin. Cron is a right-handed bat, and will likely also spell Christian Walker, whose deficiencies against high and inside heat have been ruthlessly exposed by major-league pitchers of late. He has only one home-run and five RBI since April 22, hitting .200 and striking out in one-third of his PA over that time. Despite the power, K’s have not been an issue for Cron this season, where he has a very respectable K:BB ratio of 33:27, and a strikeout rate of 16.6%. Overall in his six minor-league seasons, that figure is 22.3%.
But above, you can find a sample of what Cron does best: hit home-runs. There have been 133 of them already in his minor-league career, in 604 games. The 21 this season is easily most at any level in the minors: no other NL prospect has even reached fifteen HR. Cron’s 62 RBI also leads all minor-league batters. The power is no surprise when you see him. For Kevin is a big man, listed at 6’5” and 250 lbs on the Reno Aces roster. That would make him the largest position player on the Diamondbacks, by three inches and thirty pounds over the next man, catcher Carson Kelly. It’s even ten pounds more than Zack Godley. The only heavier position players in D-backs history, are Kyle Jensen, Wily Mo Pena and Adam Dunn.
Cron’s success has come somewhat out of nowhere. Perhaps due to his age, he didn’t even make the Diamondbacks’ top 30 preseason prospects on MLB.com. He did just make it there on Michael’s list, sneaking in at #28. At the time of that piece, he was blocked not only by Walker, but Paul Goldschmidt. Still, Michael concluded: “Best case scenario, Cron puts the bat on the ball enough to warrant a starting 1B role. If that’s the case, I expect a .250/.320/.480 slash from Cron with 25 2B, 25 HR, and a 25% K rate. That would make him valuable enough to be a 1.5-2.0 WAR player if his defense isn’t a complete bust.”
It would, of course, be foolish to expect Cron to continue to hit in the majors at the same insanely ferocious rate he did for Reno. There, he had a triple-slash line of .339/.437/.800 for an OPS of 1.237. But we did some number crunching in 2017, looking at batters who played both for Reno and the D-backs, to see how the numbers compared. Applying the average adjustment to Cron’s AAA stats, the expected line from him as a D-back would be .257/.346/.668. That’s still an OPS of over a thousand, which would be nice but seems unlikely. If we use Cron’s overall AAA numbers, for a better sample size, the projection comes out at .236/.297/.495, for an OPS of .792. Reality may well lie in the middle.
But even the lower figure would be quite welcome: for comparison, Ketel Marte’s OPS this season is currently .794, and Adam Jones is at .799. It will be interesting to see how Torey Lovullo opts to use Cron. Is he mostly going to be that late-inning power threat off the bench, which the team has been lacking of late? Or will he become an everyday player on the corner infield? The team dropped Jimmie Sherfy back to Reno after Wednesday’s game to make room. However, the team will also need to find a spot for Saturday’s scheduled starter, Taylor Clarke, on the roster. A further bullpen move is possible there, or it could be goodbye to Ildemaro Vargas.
A new prospect arriving to make their debut is like Christmas for baseball fans. There’s this beautifully-wrapped package under the tree, and you can’t wait to rip off the wrapping and see what you’ve got. Could be a new Playstation... could be socks. We’ll see into which category Cron falls in the coming weeks.