Rarely has a player gone from much-heralded prospect to has-been so quickly. It was only in May that Sam Dykstra of MLB.com wrote that the brother of C.J. Cron “could be [a] powerful D-backs DH”, after it was announced the National League would adopt American League rules for the season. That made sense: in just 82 Triple-A games last season, Cron smacked a ridiculous 38 home-runs with 105 RBI, part of a triple-slash line of .331/.449/.777 for a 1.223 OPS. That was second only to PCL MVP Ty Francis in the entire 2019 minor league system, and little wonder that Arizona fans were looking forward to seeing Kevin slugging in the majors.
But just a few months have passed, and Cron is no longer part of the future for the team - or even their present. For they released him, with Nick Piecoro announcing that the D-backs has sold his right to a Japanese baseball team (as yet unnamed). What happened? Well, 2020 happened, and Cron had a horrendous season. As in, he failed to get a single hit over the eight games in which he appeared, going 0-for-17, with one walks and seven strikeouts. Now, normally, rushing to judgment on so few PAs would be questionable, but anyone who watched Cron’s at-bats knows the problem. He looked utterly helpless against just about anything except fastballs.
When he made contact, they could go a very, very long way. Witness the 453-foot bomb which opens the highlight reel below. But that only happened on rare occasions. Even last year, Cron hit .308 on fastballs, compared to only .087 on breaking pitches and .111 on off-speed stuff. This season, the inevitable happened. Once word got around opposing pitchers about his weakness, he rarely saw a fastball in the zone. Instead, the percentage of off-speed stuff Cron saw almost tripled, going from 11.3% in 2019 to 31.7% this year. He whiffed on 41.3% of all pitches, far above MLB average (24.5%).
It appears, Mike Hazen and team felt the issue was not correctable, and it’s certainly a salutary lesson in expecting Reno stats to translate in any way to the majors. With Christian Walker under team control for another four years, the designated hitter apparently not in play for the National League next year, and other prospects such as Seth Beer waiting in the wings, Cron felt surplus to team requirements. As ever, we wish him all the best in his future endeavors, and It’ll be interesting to see how he does in Japan.
If Kevin does well, he won’t be the first Arizona 1B to achieve success in NPB. Alex Cabrera’s entire MLB career was 31 games with the D-backs in 2000 (including a home-run in his first at-bat). But he spent 12 years in Japan, hitting 357 homers, a number exceeded only by Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Ramirez among foreign players. Most famously, in 2002 he tied the single-season record HR of Sadaharu Oh 55), and was repeatedly walked by Oh, then managing another team, to avoid Alex having a chance to break it. However, it later came out that in Sep 2000, a package sent to Cabrera was found to contain the anabolic steroid Winstrol, putting his sale to Japan in a new light. I trust nothing similar is involved in Cron’s situation.