There might not be a player in baseball more deserving of a call up than Kevin Cron, who has absolutely crushed the ball at AAA Reno this season. The younger brother of Minnesota Twins first baseman/designated hitter C.J. Cron, Kevin will make his big league debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.
The younger Cron was drafted in the third round in 2011 by the Seattle Mariners but opted to attend TCU instead where he did not perform as well as expected and slipped to the 14th round in 2014, when he signed with the D-Backs. He has played 72 games at third base in his career where he is serviceable, but his natural position is at first base where he is a solid defender.
The real strength in Cron’s game is, well, his strength. He hit 12 home runs in just 64 games to start his pro career, then following it up with 27, 26, 25, and 22 home runs in full season ball before hitting 21 home runs in 199 trips to the plate this season. He had climbed into quality prospect status after his first two pro seasons, but a rough 2016 that saw him hit just .222 in his first taste of AA, then fairing even worse in the Arizona Fall League had Cron disappear from the prospect landscape. He bounced back the next season hitting .283, then .309 a season ago in the hitter friendly PCL and is hitting with a ridiculous slash line of .339/.437/.800 this year.
He is 26, making him old for a position prospect, but I fully expect him to be a quality bat in the middle of the D-Backs lineup moving forward. He it tall and has a bit of a leg kick in his swing that can cause him to be a little late at times, but he has really improved the timing between his front foot, hips, and hands allowing them all to move together, creating the plus power.
I don’t expect Cron to put up the crazy numbers he has been posting in Reno at the big league level, but he could easily hit .260 with 25 home runs with regularity, which is really impressive for a guy who has fallen off just about all prospect lists ahead of this season.
In a rather minor move on Saturday morning, the Arizona Diamondbacks sent Tim Locastro to AAA and called up Taylor Clarke, a 25-year old right handed pitcher. Clarke started the year at AAA, his third taste of the level, so it was only a matter of time before he got the call, where he will likely see the bulk of his innings in a long relief role, although a fifth starter is his best fit long term.
Clarke comes from a high 3/4 slot but has an inconsistent delivery in terms of arm speed and effort at the finish of his delivery. There are times he can get the fastball into the mid-90s with ease, while others he pulls hard on the finish leading to some command issues. Most will likely give him average to better grades in that respect as he is a strike thrower, but he is more control over command to me, and he can miss in the zone even if those misses aren’t hit hard.
The fastball touches 95 and has some real run at its best which would typically be a 60 grade pitch, but the command concerns make it play more 50-55. He also has a cutting slider that can be an average offering and a curve that typically plays below average but can be an average pitch when at its best, a good 12-6 break. He does have a solid change that keeps hitters off balance when the delivery matches the fastball, although there are inconsistencies there.
None of his pitches are true swing-and-miss offerings, and he doesn’t get a lot of ground balls, which could be a concern when pitching at home or at Coors, although there is enough variety in his offerings he does miss a lot of barrels. As I mentioned off the top, he is probably best suited as a fifth starter as he does have the body to eat innings, although an average fifth starter might be his ceiling. My guess is he starts as the last man in the bullpen who can go an inning or two if a starter gets knocked out of the game early or eat the 5 innings in a long extra innings affair. I expect Clarke to bounce back and forth between Phoenix and Reno but should be able to stick in Arizona long enough this season to exhaust his rookie eligibility.
The Boston Red Sox revolving trio of catchers is officially a thing of the past, as they dealt Blake Swihart to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Marcus Wilson ($500K in international money is included in the deal, but reports have seen the money going in both directions, unsure at the time of this writing who actually received the money but I do believe it is Arizona).
Wilson is an athletic outfielder with plenty of tools, but has yet to really put together a season that matches his potential. The speed is easily above average to plus although he has only stolen more than 16 bags in a season once. He has enough instincts to stick in center with enough arm to be serviceable in right, although he is best suited in center or left.
The swing is big, violent, and inconsistent. He has some bat wrap up by the ear, a decent leg kick, and soft wrists that lead to more check swing strikes than most. His hips also open early, limiting his ability to cover the outer half of the plate, which is one of the reasons he struck out in nearly 30% of his trips to the plate in 2018. There is real raw power in the bat, although none of it has shown in game action, as his best power season was just 10 home runs in a season he slugged .369.
The approach at the plate is well below average, but the bat speed is above average leaving an upside of a future average hit tool still conceivable, although it is most likely a future 40 grade tool. The raw power is real and there is still plenty of projection in his body, so average to better game power is something that is reasonable to expect. The future for Wilson is most likely a 4-A type player, but he could find himself a role as quality fourth outfielder thanks to his athletic tools that will allow him to play all three positions and provide pop.
Before I even got this posted Alex Reyes exhausted his rookie eligibility (needed a single out to do so and pitched an inning on Friday) so I updated my top 150 before it went live. Reyes was at 22 but is now removed making room for Ryan Weathers, giving the Padres two more than any other team with 12 players making the top 150. 15 players on the list open the season in the big leagues, with 14 of those in the top 80 and the Padres and Mariners both starting with two players in the big leagues.