Prospect Spotlight: Kevin Cron

Kevin Cron is not listed among the top-10 prospects for first base. He is not listed among the top-100 prospects. Hell, he isn’t even listed among the top-30 prospects in the Arizona farm system. So why the hell should you care about Kevin Cron? I’m glad you asked… I know you didn’t, but I’ll answer anyway.

Let’s start with some minor league numbers.

Year Lvl Age G AB R H 2B HR RBI AVG OBP SLG BABIP ISO BB% SO%
2015 A+ 22 127 518 71 141 34 27 97 .272 .314 .494 .311 .222 5.02 23.48
2016 AA 23 127 465 60 103 20 26 88 .222 .278 .437 .248 .215 6.47 26.27
2017 AA 24 138 515 76 146 35 25 91 .283 .357 .497 .332 .214 9.52 22.79
2018 AAA 25 104 392 57 121 28 22 97 .309 .368 .554 .359 .245 8.22 22.83
2019 AAA 26 42 156 42 52 13 21 60 .333 .432 .821 .301 .488 14.75 17.49

If these stats belonged to someone drafted in the first few rounds I would not have to tell you who Cron was or why you should like him. Sadly, Cron was taken in the 14th round and hasn’t been able to generate the respect one would normally associate with lines like this. The only blemish is that .222 average in 2016. The rest of that year’s line looks good, and if he had hit for a better average he probably would have started the 2017 season in AAA followed by a promotion to the show in 2018.

He has power, enough so to hit 20+ home runs annually with 30+ upside. This year in AAA his hard hit rate is over 40% which is part of the reason he is about to surpass last years home run total of 22 – and it’s only May. I know it’s the PCL, but 21 home runs in seven weeks is still impressive regardless of level and/or division. Don’t get too excited, though. While I like Cron, he isn’t as powerful as we’ve seen so far in 2019. Then again, he is a rather hefty 250 pounds and 6’5″ so he does have the body to improve in the power department – maybe that’s what we are seeing now?

In addition to power, Cron also has a solid and patient approach at the plate; he isn’t just a one trick pony or three-outcome power hitter. Here are the highlights:

His average walk rate from 2017/2018 would rank him 68th, tied with Manny Machado and a few slots ahead of Trea Turner – solid company.

His strikeout rate over that time-frame (22.8) is a little high for me, but he is showing some improvements this year, and 2017/2018 were better than 2016 so he is learning.

Between the walks, solid contact and his hard hit approach you get an on-base percentage that would rank among the top-30 in the league.

If we remove his 2016 anomaly of an average we see a .272 on the low-end. By today’s standards, that number ranks just outside the top-50. His .283 in 2017 would place him 38th, tied with Javier Baez. I don’t need to explain his .300+ both this year and last.

He can handle himself against lefties, batting .243 with 9 home runs in 2017 and .402 last year over 112 at bats.

He isn’t a hit or miss, month to month guy with the batting average. In 2018 his second lowest month was .289 (not counting his 13 September AB), in 2017 his second lowest monthly average was .273, and in 2015 the second lowest was .280.

Granted there is always the chance he takes an initial dive as he did when first promoted to AA, but he rebounded nicely after 2016 and has quietly had a pretty successful minor league career, and not just as far as the batting average. Everything I see says he could be a solid major league player with the potential to surprise us . His move from first base to third shows versatility, and moving did not mentally affect him at the plate. He does possesses better range at first base so his future isn’t on third (don’t make long-term plans for him at this position), but with how Christian Walker is playing that move will not happen this year.

So I ask you, why isn’t or hasn’t anyone been talking about Kevin Cron…except me?
Maybe they are privately…

 

Kevin Cron has shown similar patience and consistency with more power than top 1B prospects Ryan Mountcastle and Evan White, fewer strikeout issues than Brent Rooker, Bobby Bradley and Nick Pratto, and I’m sure Triston Casas can be put in there somewhere depending on how his development goes the next two years. Yet all these first round and blue-chip players get all the headlines; meanwhile Cron has outperformed them all to little fanfare (outside of Arizona).

Yes, Cron is older than all these players, and probably older than most players he has played against at each level. This and his low draft status from 2014 is his only albatross. If you take those two things away and go by the numbers, Cron is one of the most consistent first basemen (I know he moved to third) in the minors. Like Rhys Hoskins, the Diamondbacks will quickly realize his value is at first base, so for those of you in keeper leagues… don’t fret.

Arizona currently sits inside the top-10 for runs scored. Imagine how much better they could be if Eduardo Escobar was shifted to shortstop over Nick Ahmed, something I suggested last August. This move would also move the team into the top-10 for home runs (ahead of their NL West nemesis Los Angeles Dodgers).

With a .333/.432/.821 slashline in Reno through Monday along with 21 HR, 60 RBI and a 17.49 K%, there is little holding Cron back from a promotion – he’s not getting any younger so that service time clock excuse is out the window.

If you are in a keeper or dynasty league this may be your last chance to buy-low (I bought in everywhere last season). For those that play in seasonal formats, Cron is one of my top stashes, especially in you use a CI slot. His ownership rate on CBS is up to 3%; that’s 3% more than Yahoo and ESPN leagues – Fantrax is at 14%. Now is the time to buy and or add before his name starts hitting fantasy articles everywhere.

 

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Jim Finch

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The self proclaimed Grand High Exhausted Mystic Ruler of Fantasy Baseball. While I am not related to Jennie or Sidd Finch, I will attempt to uphold the integrity of the Finch family name as it relates to baseball.

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