C.J. Cron is 6-foot-4 and a solid 235 pounds, and has been a power hitter for as long as he played baseball. As a catcher and sophomore at the University of Utah in 2010, he hit 20 home runs, with 81 RBI and a .431 average in 49 games.
That sent him into his junior year high on draft projections, and he was taken 17th overall by the California Angels in 2011.
The Angels already had decided his catching days were over and put him at first base. Cron immediately showed wood-bat power — 13 home runs in 34 games in rookie ball — and might have been looked at as the Angels first baseman of the future.
Except, on Dec. 8, 2011, the Angels signed Albert Pujols, 32, to a 10-year contract for $254 million. That wasn’t a roadblock for a first base prospect; that was a road grader.
“When you have a chance to sign one of the greatest hitters and first baseman of all-time, I don’t think anyone is saying, ‘We have this prospect in rookie ball,’ ” Cron said Friday.
“Albert’s a great guy; he was very good to me. He helped me at first base. He taught me how to stretch, when to stretch, at first base.”
Cron broke in with the Angels in May 2014. He played first base or DH, depending on Albert’s health at the moment. For four seasons, he spent long stretches in the big leagues, and also wound up back in Class AAA.
Finally, in mid-February 2018, Cron was traded to Tampa Bay and became a fulltime big-leaguer — 140 games, with 30 home runs and 74 RBI. The Rays released him rather than let him take those numbers to arbitration. He was claimed by the Twins on Nov. 26.
After a lifetime of watching home runs fly, he’s seeing them hit by teammates and other major leaguers as never before.
“One reason is there are no more auto-takes for most hitters,” Cron said. “Those counts where hitters would automatically take a pitch … now, if it’s over the plate, hitters are swinging.
“And not to slap a single to the opposite field. We’re trying to crush it.”
Shocking additions to Twins’ 2019 hitting production:
Mitch Garver: Seven home runs in 348 at-bats for Twins entering this season; 11 home runs in 110 ABs (one per 10) after Friday night.
Jonathan Schoop: 27 extra-base hits (12 homers) and 33 RBI in 218 at-bats, after being unusable (.202 average) in Milwaukee following a deadline trade last year.
Ehire Adrianza: Gone from vulnerable on the roster to batting .468 in 19 games (13 starts) since May 12. He’s hit three home runs and scored 12 in this run as a backup.