Bees land blue-chip home boy C. J. Cron

Published: Saturday, March 22 2014 4:56 p.m. MDT

TEMPE, Ariz. — What goes around comes around, and slugger C.J. Cron will be coming around Salt Lake City again.

Only this time he’s a Salt Lake Bee, not a Ute.

After an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League last year and stellar spring training, Cron is emerging — in the words of one executive — as the Los Angeles Angels’ “first baseman of the future.”

“C.J. is one of the most improved players in our organization,” says Mike Scioscia, Angel manager. “I’ve been anxious to show that he deserved being a top draft pick.”

In 2008, at age 18, Cron flashed on the radar of baseball scouts when he was a blue-chip prospect from Mountain Pointe High in Arizona. And immediately, he found himself faced with choices within choices.

Should he turn pro or play ball in college?

And if he went to college, should he choose Arizona State or the University of Utah?

Fortunately for Utah baseball fans — and his own ambitions — Cron chose to play for Utah, where he was named an All-American in 2011. That same year he signed with the Angels and began his journey around the team’s farm system, earning rookie honors in Orem and Inland Empire, Calif. What’s more, he has managed to shine despite knee surgery in 2012 and shoulder surgery in 2013. And his success in spite of injury speaks well of his toughness and his ability to focus.

Now, given his eye-opening performance at spring training, Cron has been promoted to triple-A Salt Lake and will likely see time with the parent club later this summer. Just like Mike Trout two years ago, Cron should be the big local draw and will add even more interest to this year’s team.

Yet despite all the buzz, Cron is determined to keep things simple.

“I just feel more comfortable at the plate this year,” Cron says. (At the time he had a .545 spring training average). And as for the trade of Mark Trumbo creating a spot for him on the Angels, he tries to keep that in perspective as well.

“There is an opening for me now,” he says, “but I can’t take anything for granted. I have to keep working hard.”

As a boy, Cron was coached long and hard by his father, Chris Cron, a former Major Leaguer himself. When asked if there was one piece of advice his dad gave him that has stuck, the young slugger says: “Pretty much everything. He’s still giving me advice about hitting.”

Needless to say, for the 2014 campaign, Salt Lake City makes a nice fit. Smith’s Park, with its thin air and minimal foul area, has a reputation as a hitters’ ball park. And just being in familiar surroundings should help keep Cron in that “comfort zone” he’s developed this year.

“Besides,” he says, “I have friends there I’m looking forward to seeing.”

Of course, not long ago, Mike Trout was turning heads. He was only in Utah for a few at bats before being called up. The Angels simply could not keep him down on the farm.

Whether or not C.J. Cron will take the “Trout route” to fame with all the fanfare is anybody’s guess. But given Cron’s ability and attitude — not to mention that he seems to be getting better on almost a daily basis, nobody’s betting against it.

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