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C.J. Cron seizes DH spot

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With David Murphy out of the picture, the club appears confident that C.J. Cron is ready for a full-time role. What can we expect from the young thumper as he enters his prime?

The Angels are banking on more Cron-bombs in 2016
The Angels are banking on more Cron-bombs in 2016
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

When the Angels selected C.J. Cron in the first round of the 2011 draft, it represented a clear shift in the club's philosophy under first-year scouting director Ric Wilson. While Eddie Bane would fetishize raw, projectable talent, Cron was a college first baseman who's only path to the big leagues was through his advanced bat and booming power. While he donned the tools of ignorance early on, his large frame clearly suggested first base and DH would become his home.

As a polished college bat, Cron's output was underwhelming during his minor league career. While the club was hoping the first-round pick would develop into a middle-of-the-order bat, many of us were skeptical C.J. would even become a Mark Trumbo-lite. This past season the 25 year-old hit that milestone, batting .262/.300/.439 across 404 PA, while posting identical three-true-outcome rates as Trumbo did in his age-25 season:

Player

Age

Year

Lg

PA

HR%

SO%

BB%

Trumbo

25

2011

AL

573

5.1%

20.9%

4.4%

Cron

25

2015

AL

404

4.0%

20.3%

4.2%

Of course there are other, more obvious similarities between the two players. Both stand at 6'4, hit right-handed and rely on power to offset a lack of plate discipline. Both play first base, though Trumbo has enough athleticism to fake it in the outfield while Cron's best position is DH. Both had similar success in the minors, though Cron only spent half as much time there thanks to college ball.

So it would stand to reason that Cron should have a similar year to Trumbo's 2012, right? Lucky for us, that would be Trumbo's finest season as a Halo, batting .268/.317/.491 with 32 HR. Trumbo wasn't shy about admitting he wanted to improve his plate discipline, increasing his walk rate each of his last two seasons with the Halos. If Cron is to replicate Trumbo's production from age 26-27, he will do so by relying on his ability to make contact. While Trumbo made modest strides in his walk rates in each successive season through the minors and majors, Cron was happy to keep on hacking away, resulting in higher batting averages with a similar OBP.

Cron established himself in the second half this season, batting .343 in July and .321 in August with 4 HR each month. He regressed in the season's final month, batting .232, but maintained the power production, belting 6 more home runs. For 2016, Steamer projects Cron to hit .259/.299/.432 with 22 HR over 599 PA. While that falls just shy of Trumbo's 2012, keep in mind projection systems are inherently conservative. If we buy that as the baseline for what Cron will do next year, I think we would gladly take that from the DH spot.

I was in favor of retaining David Murphy and his more stabilizing approach as a left-handed compliment to Cron. I also understand that would have been quite the luxury, especially if the club upgrades left field, as expected. For what it's worth, Steamer projects Cron to out-produce Murphy in 2016, so I will happily be wrong and watch C.J. become one of the main cogs in Mike Scioscia's line-up next season, while hoping "Cron-bombs" actually becomes a thing.