About a year ago, C.J. Cron was spending time in The BAR Fitness in Ahwatukee Foothills.
That fact alone wasn’t surprising as the former Mountain Pointe slugger did a lot of work there over the years, but that was a little different.
The only sweating going on was waiting to see when he was going to be selected in the first round of the MLB first-year player draft.
The news eventually came that the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim took him with the 17th overall pick in last year’s draft.
Today, Cron is rated as the Angels’ fifth-best prospect while playing for the Inland Empire 66ers in the Class A Advanced California League as he makes his way through his first full-year of professional baseball.
“We talk when we can,” said his brother, Kevin, whose Texas Christian program is playing nearby this weekend against UCLA in the super regionals. “He’s had a stretch lately and he is feeling good.”
It is clear that Cron, 22, has acclimated well considering he just had a 20-game hit streak come to an end on Tuesday.
The right-handed slugger entered Wednesday’s action hitting .286 (64 of 224) with 28 runs, eight home runs and 42 RBIs.
“I’ve made some minor adjustments and am trying to get the bat through the zone as quickly as possible,” Cron told the Desert News. “Earlier in the year, I was swinging at breaking pitches in the dirt. I have laid off those pitches, and I am able to drive a breaking pitch if someone leaves it high.”
He had a terrific May when he hit .351 with four home runs and 23 RBIs to trigger the long hitting streak.
“C.J. has big-league bat speed,” 66ers manager Bill Haselman said in the same story. “He is a smart hitter and has had good at-bats.”
The best thing about Cron’s season might be the fact that he has appeared in all but one game for the 66ers. He had a position change, from catcher to first base, in his junior year in college at Utah because of a shoulder injury.
Then he had his rookie league season — when he hit .308 with 13 home runs and 41 RBIs in 34 games — come to an end early because of a dislocated knee. Considering the $1.4 million signing bonus he received, the Angels were cautious with him in spring training but thus far he has been playing free and easy.
“For C.J., the most important thing is being able to stay on the field,” said Inland Empire hitting coach Paul Sorrento, a former slugging first baseman himself. “Keeping him on the field was the focus of the organization.”
The results have been positive as he leads the team in doubles (13), home runs and RBIs while ranking second in runs, hits, total bases and slugging percentage. He is fifth in on-base percentage and third in OPS.
“He’s hitting more line drives and concentrates on using the whole field when taking batting practice,” Sorrento said. “The ball comes off his bat louder. He works extremely hard and he has God-given ability.”