It comes whenever a high-end prospect is on his way up through the system, but the Angels seem to have a slight problem with a specific position. First base has been occupied by ten separate players over the past two seasons, two consistetly (Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo). Half are no longer with the Angels organization (Kendrys Morales, Bobby Wilson, Brad Hawpe, Brendan Harris), but the question is still raised, who will play first base in the future?
Albert Pujols' most recent injury and age make some question his ability to play each day in the field. Easy way to fix it would be to set his feet in the batter's box only as a permanent designated hitter. But that also fills the hole of if certain players need a day off from the field, and that takes away one of the most promising bats of the past decade out of the lineup.
Mark Trumbo has played third base before, but when he made an appearance this season at the hot corner, his first warmup throw landed in the dugout of the opposing team. Trumbo has established himself as a quality defensive player at first, but there's still work to be done. Trumbo's bat hasn't been what was expected, and he also has been a big name in the trade rumor mill of late.
Kole Calhoun played first base in the minor leagues, and had some game reps this past season. Calhoun though is slight of stature at 5'10 and yet stalky (190 lbs), is far below the average size of a Major League first baseman. He also needed fine tuning scooping poorly thrown balls and would not be able to save throws far above his head. Also, Calhoun has proven his worth with great range in right field. He also has worked on reading the way balls bounce off the walls and corners in right field, and can take away extra base hits with his above average arm. That raises another question however.
The Angels have five quality outfielders, including Josh Hamilton, who is best fitted in right field. If you give Calhoun a permanent spot in right, where does Hamilton go with Mike Trout in center and left, Peter Bourjos in center, and J.B. Shuck in left. You could move Hamilton and Shuck to the "DH" spot from time to time, but where does that leave Trumbo or Pujols?
Colin Cowgill was another interesting pickup over the season for the Angels. Cowgill never played in a game at first base, but took many reps during batting practice and player scheduled afternoon practices. That gives the Angels four possible options at first base for next season if Cowgill is ready to play the position.
Now, the big one. C.J. Cron is one of the best hitting prospects in all of Minor League Baseball right now, and guess what his go-to-position is? Yep, first base. Cron won't be Major League ready or fine tuned for about another full season in the minors, but will have a big impact on the future of the Halos first base scenario. Many scouts, critiquing fans, and professionals in the sport say Cron has the tools to be a future Major League star.
First question for me is if Cron is defensively sound, and prepared to play first base every day. He had 1,047 put outs with just 10 errors over the season, and a total fielding percentage of .991 over the 2013 season with the Travelers. For those that don't know, those are good statistical numbers. Cron played 124 of his 134 games this past season at first base, which shows he can go the distance playing the field almost each and every day.
Second question is if the kid's bat is as good as everyone says it is. Cron batted just .274 in the pitcher friendly Texas League for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers over 2013. However, only three qualifying players batted over .300 in the league and Cron had the second best batting average of players with over 125 games played.
C.J. was a star in the Texas League, being the statistical leader in at bats (519), hit by pitch (15), and doubles (36), and was in the league's top five in games played (2nd/134), RBI (5th/83), hits (2nd/142), extra base hits (2nd/51), and total bases (5th/222). However, it was Cron's postseason statistics that stood out and made MiLB reports go nuts, .303/.324/,758 in eight games, going 10-for-33 with just three of those hits not going for extra base (three doubles, four home runs), helping bring in nine runs.
Cron splits show that he struggles at the plate against right handed pitchers, batting just .248, but still managed to just strike out 14.7% of the time. Against lefties though, Cron was a scary man to face at the plate batting .328 with a .918 OPS.
Cron struck out just 14.6% of his plate appearances over the 2013 season, which is incredible. You can only imagine what that could mean with him putting the ball in play on the broader wide open field of Angel Stadium. One thing that coaches may work with on Cron, is seeing more pitches. Cron walked just 23 times this past season, and no, that's not a typo. 23 walks meant he saw four balls miss the strike zone in one at bat just 4% of his plate appearances. Still, Cron is able to put the ball in play, which is an outstanding thing as an Angels prospect.
With all that, it's a safe assumption that Cron should be the future first baseman of the Los Angeles Angels, but once again, the question at the beginning of this article is brought up. Only time will tell who will be at first base in the Halos red, but we have a strong idea that if Cron isn't traded away or injured, he is a very good option.
For more up-to-date information on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, follow me on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard, and don't forget to follow @ScoutAngels as well.