- Rating: 1.95
- Age: 27
- 2020 stats: 20 PA, .000/.150/.000 = .150 OPS, -0.4 bWAR
- 2020 salary: $563,500 (league minimum)
- 2021 status: released and rights sold to Hiroshima Carp in the NPB (thanks, Chuck!)
Coming into 2020 there were uncertainties on Kevin Cron. Not only about his physical condition (he underwent season ending knee surgery in October 2019 although he was ready for Spring training), but more about where in this roster he could fit in. Ever since trading away Paul Goldschmidt, Mike Hazen was favoring a platoon at 1B with Christian Walker and Jake Lamb, leaving a minimal amount of at bats available to Kevin Cron.
The shortened season and implementation of the Designated Hitter in the National League seemed to come to the rescue of Kevin Cron. The “Cronmeister” flashed signs of greatness in 2019 hitting absolute bombs, which is MLB’s dream image of the DH. With no place at 1B, the DH opened a possible spot for Cron in the lineup, much to the joy of many fans on the SnakePit, like the Brutes, and me.
However, the 2020 baseball season was harsh for the Diamondbacks, and it proved to be especially brute for Kevin Cron.
To review the 2020 season of Kevin Cron we need to know a bit more about the 2019 season of Kevin Cron. This is all in hindsight, so we are not trying to be clever here, but statcast provides some useful information on Kevin Cron.
When defining a 2020 pitching strategy for Kevin Cron, something like the following information from 2019 is analyzed (but please feel free to add more valuable information in the comments):
- Cron hits balls hard (see the first image on average exit velocity), especially in the upper part of the strike zone and up and away. Rather stay away from those zones.
- We could pitch him inside, but he takes a fair amount of base on balls on that part (see the second image on BB%), so maybe not the best tactic.
- No, rather not pitch him inside or up because that is how he gets on base (see the third image on xwOBA).
- If you pitch him low in the strike zone or low and away, he hacks a lot (see the fourth image on Whiff%) or grounds out (see the fifth image on Ground ball %).
Conclusion: pitch Cron low in the strike zone or low and away.
And that is what happened in 2020 (see first image on Pitch%).
In 2020 Cron got to see a fair share of fastballs in the (small amount of) at bats he had. The decrease when compared to 2019 was not drastic. The difference is they were located in his ground ball and whiff zone (second image on fastball locations).
So if he was not striking out (third image on Whiff%), he was grounding out (fourth image on ground ball%).
The strike outs came mainly on off-speed pitches located in the lower part of the strike zone. The increase of those pitches came at the expense of breaking balls and although he struck out less on these pitches in 2020 than in 2019, the adjustment was not enough.
Off-speed + breaking ball + lower part of the strike zone leads to this:
Kevin Cron appeared in games two (pinch hit appearance) and three (as designated hitter) of this season against the San Diego Padres, and immediately afterwards was sent back to the alternate training site. Mike Hazen obviously did not like what he observed and Cron was instructed to work on his plate discipline and swing.
Our 14th round pick of the 2014 draft was recalled on August 17 and was slotted in as 8th in the batting lineup for a meeting with the Oakland Athletics. In the following games he was hit by a pitch twice but the same woes continued and on August 28 he was optioned again and we would not see him back for the 2020 season.
As such, his total game log is 7 strike outs in 17 at bats, 2 hit by pitch and 1 base on balls. With a batting line of .000/.150/.000 he was obviously worse than Jake Lamb, but his YouTube appearances with Tim Locastro probably prevented him from ending dead last on the SnakePit reviews.
Pre-2020 Kevin Cron had one minor league option remaining, so his abysmal 2020 performance was going to put in doubt his future with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Fortunately, for both player and organization, there was interest in Cron and the D-Backs decided to release him and sell his rights to, at that moment, an undisclosed baseball team from the Japanese NPB, which turned out to be the Hiroshima Carp. If Kevin Cron is able to work on his flaws in the NPB and adjust his discipline and learns how to hit off-speed pitches, a return to the MLB is not out of the question.