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The complete Cron

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Back in May, I wondered whether C.J. had finally turned the Croner and established himself as the middle-of-the-order bat that the Angels were sorely lacking. When the piece was published on May 12, C.J. was riding a hot streak that brought his slash line up to .273/.351/.394 after a slow start to the season. While he had yet to find his power stroke, I was excited about dramatic improvements in his plate discipline. With the season nearly complete, I thought I'd take a look and see if those improvements continued over the larger sample.

Cron had a scorching hot summer, batting .323/.376/.606 through June and July. His hot streak came to an abrupt stop in Baltimore after C.J. took a Mike Wright fastball off the wrist. He would miss the next 35 games with that broken bone, but quickly picked up where he left off, his season batting line sitting at .286/.331/.498 as of this writing. The power has returned, establishing a career high with 18 doubles. His next home run will be his 17th, also a career best.

While the excellent walk rate from his first two months has come way back down to earth, his numbers are still up overall from last season:

Year BB% SO% O-Swing% Z-Swing% OBP
2014 4.0% 24.1% 41.0% 64.4% .289
2015 4.2% 20.3% 39.4% 65.1% .300
2016 5.0% 15.1% 35.8% 70.4% .331

Like you learned in little league, swinging at more strikes and taking more balls is good. That 15% strike out rate has remained steady throughout the year and puts him in some interesting company. Here are the only players in the majors to maintain a strikeout rate that low while slugging as well as Cron:

Player SO% SLG%
Daniel Murphy 10.1% .595
Adrian Beltre 10.3% .498
Jose Altuve 10.4% .548
Mookie Betts 12.3% .550
David Ortiz 13.4% .625
Nolan Arenado 13.4% .580
Aledmys Diaz 13.5% .518
Robinson Cano 14.0% .529
C.J. Cron 15.1% .498
Kyle Seager 15.2% .530

That is a certifiable list of All Stars, Hall of Famers and MVP candidates. While I won't fool myself into believing Cron belongs in the conversation with any of those guys, at age 26 he appears to be on a nice, upward trajectory the next few years, while still under team control. He has also moved the needle with his glove, according to at least three major reporting systems:

2014 -5 -4.2 -1.1
2015 -5 -2.0 -1.3
2016 3 2.7 -0.2

Add it up and Cron will finish the year as a roughly 2 WAR player, which would top the output of both Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo this season. If not for a freak injury when he was at his absolute hottest, we could be talking about a 3 WAR season - All Star-level production. With his improved glove work at first and Pujols seemingly finding life as a DH grand, the door is wide open for Cron to have a breakout 2017 and prove he is much more than a poor man's Trumbo.