There was only one little blip on the start to C.J. Cron’s career.
Injuries ended the first two years of his professional seasons and a third would probably saddle him with the injury prone tag.
No worries anymore.
The Mountain Pointe product and Anaheim Angels’ minor league first baseman made it through the everyday grind — and beyond — just fine in year No. 3 as Cron played the most games of his career and finished with one of the hottest streaks of his professional career.
Cron, 23, played in the Arizona Fall League, a six-week offseason league reserved for baseball’s top projects, and helped the Mesa Solar Sox win the East Division title and finish as league runner-ups to the Surprise Saguaros.
“The Fall League is about development and getting experience,” he said, “but no matter what league you are in or season it is we are wired to win as athletes. We try to go out every day and win something.”
Cron won the AFL batting title at .413 (33 for 80) and wasn’t far off the triple crown with five home runs (leader at 6) and 20 RBIs (leader was at 26). Over the last 10 games he hit .565 (13 for 23) to win the title.
It was a good sign for Cron as he came off his worst statistical season, even though the numbers were still solid in his first year of Double A, but more importantly the former Angels’ first-round pick played a full season after being unable to do so in his first two years.
“I’m feeling really good, actually,” Cron said a few days before winning the AFL title. “It’s been a lot of games. Baseball is about being ready to play every day and I have been.”
Counting two all-star games (Double-A, and AFL), an exhibition (Future’s Game), six postseason games and two regular seasons, Cron played in 163 games.
Staying healthy for a full campaign was important considering his first year ended because of a knee injury and his second year ended after shoulder surgery.
He’ll get a chance to rest up a bit, while still working with his dad, Chris, before reporting for the 2014 season in about three months where Cron expects to be preparing for this first year at Triple-A.
“I expect to go to Triple A and that’s the goal,” he said. “You never want to repeat levels and I don’t want to go back. That’s not my decision so I am going to make it as tough on the organization as possible and send me to Triple A.”
That’s why the great production he put up in the AFL was so important after hitting .274 with 14 home runs and 83 RBIs with an OPS of .746.
It was a quality season, but not the production expected of an organization’s No. 2 prospect.
“Pitchers are going to try and get you out and you have to adjust,” Cron said. “At the beginning of the season I struggled, actually the whole season, I never quite felt like myself.
“Toward the end of the season then the playoffs and fall league I started to seeing the ball well and swinging a lot better.”
One of the reasons might be the fact that his dad, Chris, was able to see him play on a daily basis for the first time since high school. The elder Cron is a minor league manager and will return to the Double-A Erie this season, but he has spent his offseason watching C.J. tear up the AFL.
Chris helped both of his sons, the younger Kevin is preparing for his important junior year at Texas Christian, hone in on a quality swing at an early age.
No one knows C.J.’s swing like his father and he has continued to help from afar.
“Every hitting instructor has different philosophies, but you have whatever works for you,” said C.J., who lives in Scottsdale in the offseason. “I take what my coaches and what my dad says and work through it. We can talk through some things because we always have an open line of communication.”
And it is clearly working.
“I am a middle of the order guy so my job is to drive the ball and knock in runners,” he said. “You can’t always think about it with a pitcher on the mound who is throwing 95. So you have to take what baseball gives, and that’s a chance to play every day, compete, and get better.”
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