The Los Angeles Angels won 98 games in 2014, good for the most in baseball, before being swept in three games by the Kansas City Royals in the ALDS. C.J. Cron saw some playing time during the Angels' abbreviated playoff run, which included two 11-inning losses, but the 6-foot-4, 235-pound first baseman/DH was an everyday player for the Halos during the team's AL West championship run in September.
In his major league debut, Cron slashed .256/.289/.450 with 11 home runs, 28 runs and 37 RBI across 253 plate appearances. He hit .258 with 11 extra-base hits in 97 PAs against southpaws, and .255 with 12 extra-base hits in 156 PAs against righties.
As expected, Cron's biggest contribution came in the power department, with a .194 ISO and a home run for every 22 at-bats. After the former 2011 first-round pick hit 27 home in his first full season of professional baseball, Cron lit up the Arizona Fall League. In 2013, he hit .274/.319/.428 with 14 home runs in Double-A Arkansas, and then hit 11 more long balls in 79 games before getting called up by the Angels.
While the power was certainly there (.194 ISO) for Cron, he struggled to reach base consistently. His four percent walk rate was among the lowest in baseball, with only 15 players with at least 250 plate appearances showing less patience.
Cron's 10 walks in 79 games in 2014 came as no surprise. The former first-round pick out of the University of Utah has never been selective at the plate - as evidenced by just 50 walks throughout his professional career. Cron, who struck out in 24.1 percent of his plate appearances in 2014, will have to become more selective at the plate if he's ever going to build on last season's .256 BA.
As things stand, Cron is a one-dimensional player capable of joining the 16 others at first base that hit 20 home runs in 2014. The key to Cron's season will be playing time. Albert Pujols isn't going anywhere, and the addition of 30-year-old veteran Matt Joyce will certainly cut into further opportunities for Cron, who will likely receive his most playing time when Joyce sits against tough lefties.
As things stand, Cron will have a hard time topping last year's 253 plate appearances with the addition of Joyce, but Cron is only an injury away. Any missed time from Albert Pujols or Josh Hamilton would mean additional playing time for Cron. Given both players' injury histories, Cron will get his shot.
Steamer projects Cron to hit .247/.287/.404 in 296 PAs in 2015, which closely resembles last year's output. I'm slightly more optimistic, with 20 home runs being attainable. For a late round roll of the dice, Cron could be very valuable, especially in AL-only leagues and deeper formats where power is not readily available on the wire once the season starts.
With Joyce now in the picture, Cron could go undrafted in leagues. I think that would be a mistake, as I believe Cron will find a way to more playing time. Still, adding Joyce in tandem might be the best way to approach this.