He may have turned a corner by winning the Arizona Fall League batting championship with a .413 average. Cron has plus raw power and could hit for a solid average. —mlb.com
Former University of Utah designated hitter C.J. Cron, who has been playing in the Los Angeles Angels farm system, is creating a buzz even before spring training starts.
On Wednesday, Baseball America named him the Angels' second-best prospect for 2014.
Not only has Cron drawn praise as one of the best Angels prospects, but also as one of the top first-baseman prospects in the minors.
Recently, mlb.com dubbed Cron the third-best first-baseman prospect for the upcoming year — right behind Houston prospect Jonathan Singleton and Mets up-and-comer Dominic Smith.
According to mlb.com, Cron's performance in the 2013 Arizona Fall League (AFL) is a big reason for the rise in his stock.
Cron led all hitters in averages during the brief AFL season and finished second in home runs, RBIs and OPS. The young slugger hit a robust .413 average in 20 games. He finished with five home runs, 12 extra base hits and 20 RBIs during the AFL season.
Cron was taken No. 17 overall by the Angels in the 2011 Major League Baseball draft, becoming the first Ute ever to be drafted in the first round. He hit .396 in his three-year career at Utah and ended up a two-time All-American and two-time Mountain West Conference player of the year in his time with the Utes.
"Some scouts viewed Cron as the best all-around hitter available in the 2011 Draft, during which the Halos selected him 17th overall," wrote mlb.com. "He hasn't lived up to that billing in pro ball, in part because he has been overly aggressive at the plate, but he may have turned a corner by winning the Arizona Fall League batting championship with a .413 average. Cron has plus raw power and could hit for a solid average."
Cron ended the 2013 minor league season with Los Angeles' Double-A affiliate the Arkansas Travelers and is anticipated to play for the Salt Lake Bees at some point this season.
Cron isn't the only baseball player with Utah ties making waves this offseason.
Taylorsville native John Buck signed a one-year deal with the Mariners last week. According to the team's website, the deal is worth $1 million.
Buck belted 15 home runs in 2013 for the Mets before being dealt to Pittsburgh before the season ended, finishing the year with 62 RBIs — his second-most RBIs in one season. His career includes previous stints with Kansas City, Toronto and Miami.
BYU alum Jeremy Guthrie remains on the Kansas City 40-man roster heading into spring training, which starts next month. Former Ute pitcher Stephen Fife is still on the Dodgers' 40-man roster.
Kearns native Brandon Duckworth most recently played overseas with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, of the Japanese Pacific League.