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Why the COVID-19 outbreak could offer Kevin Cron his big MLB break

Kevin Cron
Kevin Cron could get his big MLB break in 2020. (David Calvert/Reno Aces)

In difficult times, you must search for silver linings.

Sports fans don't have much to watch these days as the coronavirus has torpedoed the NBA, NHL and MLB seasons. But sports will return at some point. And when they do, Kevin Cron, who had a record-breaking season for the Reno Aces in 2019, could get his big break at the Major League Baseball level.

We don't know exactly what MLB will look like post-COVID-19, but one of the most likely options is a three-division realignment plan with an East, Central and West division. Under this format, which would help minimize travel, a universal designated hitter would most likely be used since National League and American League teams would be mixed.

Traditionally, the NL doesn't have a DH outside of interleague play. It's weird, but those are baseball's rules. This temporary change would alter that, and one of the biggest beneficiaries could be Cron, who hit 45 home runs between the minor and major leagues last season. Cron was likely on the outside looking in in terms of making the MLB roster out of spring training if coronavirus didn't hit. Add a DH and Cron could be a major piece to the big-league roster.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound slugger, who mostly plays first base, isn't known for his defense. Nor is his brother, C.J., who has played six MLB seasons with a chunk of his games coming at DH. All four of C.J.'s big-league teams have been AL squads, which has afforded him the chance to DH unlike his younger brother, Kevin, who is stuck in the NL.

While defense might not be the Cron's calling cards, those boys can hit bombs. C.J. has 114 big-league homers in 2,325 at-bats, so one dong every 20 at-bats. Kevin Cron made his big-league debut at age 26 last season and popped six homers in 71 at-bats, one every 11.8 at-bats. A position crunch has limited Cron's opportunities in the big leagues so far. Adding the DH across the majors could change that.

Cron has nothing more to prove in the minor leagues. He slashed .331/.449/.777 with 38 homers in 82 games in Triple-A Reno in 2019. He slashed .309/.368/.554 with 22 homers in 104 games in Reno the year prior. PCL pitchers don't stand much of a chance against him, especially not if Triple-A is using the bouncy ball employed last season. But Cron was likely still ticketed for Triple-A if the MLB season started in March as usual.

Arizona traded All-Star Paul Goldschmidt prior to last season, but that didn't open a spot for Cron, a late-blooming slugger from TCU. Instead, it was another former Ace, Christian Walker, who scooped up the playing time and slashed .259/.348/.476 with 29 homers in 152 games, although most of that damage was done in April. Walker slashed .243/.339/.438 after May 6, and a .777 OPS doesn't cut it at first base. Also getting at-bats at first base is Jake Lamb, a 2017 All-Star and left-handed complement to the right-handed Walker. Those two are scheduled to share first-base duties for Arizona in 2020, assuming there is a season. At third base, where Cron has taken some reps, is Eduardo Escobar, who has established himself as a solid big-leaguer.

Barring an injury or Walker playing more like his post-April self from 2019, Cron would likely be stuck crushing balls at Greater Nevada Field trying to avoid the dreaded "Quad A" tag. An MLB with a universal DH could change that. Cron only played 39 big-league games last season, so it's hard to read too much into his .211/.269/.521 line. He struck out 28 times with just four walks in 78 plate big-league appearances, which underscores the biggest question mark on Cron. Will he make enough contact to get to that immense power?

The only way to find out is by giving him regular MLB at-bats, which would be possible if Arizona got to use the DH every season. There isn't a lot of good that has come out of COVID-19, and sports in general should be on the periphery when people are losing their lives and their jobs. But the changes MLB might have to make because of the coronavirus – a universal DH – could be Cron's big break in MLB. It will be up to him to take advantage of it if he does get that chance.

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