Angels pick U.'s C.J. Cron at No. 17 in MLB Draft
The Los Angeles Angels were not supposed to be in the mix for C.J. Cron's baseball services. In fact, they expressed only a passing interest in the University of Utah All-American.
But the Angels, in a bit of sly maneuvering, crossed up the experts and snatched the 6-foot-4, 225-pound power hitter with the 17th pick in the first round of the 2011 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
"Awesome," said Cron, trying to be heard above a noisy viewing party of family and friends in Ahwatukee, Ariz. "Everyone's going crazy.
"They called me and said, 'You've been in our back pocket for a long time. We're glad you're an Angel, now let's get the ball rolling.' "
If projections hold true, Cron could be playing first base once again in Spring Mobile Ballpark, the home of Los Angeles' Triple-A team. It's the park where Cron set school slugging records.
Cron is the Angels' first college player taken in the first round since Jered Weaver was selected in 2004. He compares favorably in style to Los Angeles' slugging rookie first baseman Mark Trumbo.
"This is the biggest day in our lives," said C.J.'s father, Chris, a second-round draft choice of the Atlanta Braves in 1984. "I don't know if anyone can get any more excited.
In a bit of synchronicity, Chris Cron, the current manager of Detroit's Double-A Erie Seawolves, also has Angel connections. He made his major league debut with Los Angeles in 1991.
"I'm extremely proud," he said.
So was Utah baseball coach Bill Kinneberg, who heard the news while watching his son play baseball.
"It's a great deal for C.J.," Kinneberg said. "The [Angels] scouting director [Ric Wilson] is a very good friend of mine, and he told me they weren't going to take him."
Cron, who led all Div. I college players with an .803 slugging percentage while ranking third with a .434 batting average, helped lead Utah to second place in the Mountain West Conference.
In a pitching heavy draft, Pittsburgh selected Gerrit Cole, a right-handed pitcher from UCLA, with the first overall pick.
Baseball experts had predicted Cron going anywhere between picks 20 and 33. Cron didn't anticipate any problems signing a contract. Last season's No. 17 pick, Josh Sales of Tampa Bay, received a $1.6 million signing bonus.
Although Cron was surprised by the pick, he was ready for anything.
"Dude, anything can happen," Cron told friends.
Unlike the NBA or NFL, where first-round draft picks are expected to contribute immediately, now comes the minor league grind, albeit one that Cron has already experienced, having spent parts of his summers with his minor league manager father.
"You can't underappreciate the value of â¦ a 12-year-old in the dugout, experiencing the bad times and the good times of pro baseball," Chris Cron said. "It's a huge advantage. You can tell in his demeanor. C.J. has a 'been there, done that' mentality."
Now it's time to do it for real.
White Sox select former Judge standout
The Chicago White Sox selected former Judge High outfielder Keenyn Walker as the No. 47 selection in the supplemental round of the 2011 Major League Baseball amateur draft.
The supplemental round is held between the first and second regular rounds as a reward to teams based on the number of free agents they have lost.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Walker, who has already been drafted twice, has already committed to Utah for 2012. Walker was drafted out of high school in the 16th round, and last year in the 38th round while playing for Central Arizona.