CJ Cron’s success will depend on his health after offseason surgery
CJ Cron will be taking over first base duties for the Detroit Tigers, and he should be one of their better offensive contributors.
C.J. Cron signed with the Detroit Tigers this offseason on a one-year pact. The Tigers will be his third team in as many seasons after being non-tendered each of the past two offseasons. He was projected to earn $7.7 million in arbitration this season but ended up signing with Detroit for $6.1 million.
Cron was in the midst of a career year last season before going on the injured list with a right thumb injury on July 6th. He struggled after returning and wound up back on the IL shortly after his return. After returning from his second IL stint he would hit just .232/.289/.413 over the last 42 games of the regular season.
This off-season, Cron elected to have surgery in hopes of a return to form in 2020. On October 16th he underwent a successful surgical debridement of the injured thumb. He is healthy at the start of Spring Training and is without limitations.
Cron previously had a debridement on his other thumb during the 2016 off-season. He broke his left hand during the season after being hit by a fastball but only suffered a slight dip in power after his return. But lingering thumb pain after returning from the broken hand prompted the surgery on his left thumb. Looking at how Cron performed in 2017 after the off-season thumb surgery might give us a clue about what to expect in 2020.
Prior to the 2017 All-Star break, Cron had hit just two home runs and a .213/.265/.303 line. After the break Cron came out hot, hitting the game-winning home run in the first game of the second half. He would ultimately hit 14 home runs in the last 63 games of the season.
Being a right-handed batter, one would expect Cron to perform better against left-handed pitching, which he did. But, his production against right-handed pitching took a large dip in 2019. His career OPS against same sided pitching is .753, but in 2019 it was just .685. He had just three more home runs against right-handers in 60 more games than he did against lefties last season.
In the recent past, the Tigers have signed players to a one-year deal with the express purpose of trading them at the deadline for a modest return. If Detroit expects to get anything for Cron, they will need him to put up better numbers in the first half of the season than he did after his 2016 surgery. He’ll also need to bring his slash line against right-handed pitching closer to his career average. The key to Cron’s 2020 season will be giving him enough rest to keep his thumb pain free and to sit him against tough right-handed pitchers.