Jackson, Tenn. - The Southern League named Kevin Cron the league's Most Valuable Player for 2017 on Wednesday, giving another honor to Jackson's first baseman for a stellar season. Cron leads the league in home runs and runs batted in among a bevy of categories in the season's final week. He becomes the third General to win the award, and the second in a row after Tyler O'Neill earned MVP honors in 2016.
Cron, 24, has been a force from Opening Day through the end of the season in Jackson's lineup. At the time of the announcement, he paced the Southern League with 23 home runs, 87 runs batted in, 58 extra-base hits and 242 total bases. His 138 hits, 35 doubles and .491 slugging percentage all rank second.
Immediately, it was clear Cron was one of the league's best players this season. In the third game of the year, Cron cranked three home runs in a game versus the Birmingham Barons on April 8. He was a clear choice to represent Jackson as a Mid-Season All-Star after a stellar First Half. Before the All-Star Break, he hit .293 with 14 home runs and 48 RBI and a .920 OPS. From May 28 to June 23, he reached safely in 23-staright games for the Generals.
"Kevin Cron deserves every bit of this recognition for his hard work, preparation, and in-game performance throughout the course of the 2017 season," Jackson manager J.R. House says. "He has been a leader in Jackson, a mentor for teammates, and an example of the type of player the Arizona Diamondbacks are attempting to develop within the minor league system. I am super proud of this young man and we look forward to his continual progression toward the big leagues."
This is the second-straight year in the Southern League for Cron, who led the circuit with 26 home runs last year. The slugger has bested many of his totals from 2016. With six games left, he is hitting .280 compared to a .222 average last year. His 55 walks, 35 doubles and 72 runs are all career-highs. He has played in all but two of Jackson's 134 games to this point.
"He has worked his butt off. Obviously, it translates to the offseason and everything he went through last year in this league. He came back and he dominated the league," hitting coach Jason Camilli says. "He's a smart kid. He learns from his mistakes, he grows from them, and does a really good job of not repeating those mistakes."
Cron was named a Southern League Postseason All-Star for the second-straight year on Tuesday. If he finishes the year on top of the league in home runs, he will become the first Southern Leaguer since 1975 and 1976 to lead the circuit back-to-back years.
For the third time in the last seven years, a Diamondbacks' prospect is MVP of the Southern League. Paul Goldschmidt won in 2011 and Jake Lamb took home the award in 2014, both with Mobile. Goldschmidt and Lamb both anchor Arizona's infield at the Major League level.
This marks the third time that a Jackson player has been named Southern League MVP, with one coming under each of the team's three MLB affiliations. West Tenn infielder Richard Lewis won in 2004 and outfielder Tyler O'Neill was last year's Most Valuable Player. The last time the same team had an MVP in consecutive seasons was 1994 and 1995, when Mark Johnson and Jason Kendall won as Carolina Mudcats. Prior, Ryan Klesko and Javy Lopez won in 1991 and 1992 respectively with the Greenville Braves. In 1985 and 1986, Jose Canseco and Terry Steinbach were league MVPs while playing with Huntsville.
Thank you to all the great fans that made 2017-Jackson's first as an Arizona affiliate-a success! The Generals open up the 2018 season at home on April 5 against Jacksonville! Call the team at (731) 988.5299, stop by The Ballpark or go online to jacksongeneralsbaseball.com to get season tickets for next year now!
UPDATE: Cron finished the season atop the Southern League in games played (138), home runs (25), total bases (256), RBI (91), and extra-base hits (60). He also ranked among the league leaders in runs (76, tied for 4th), hits (146, 2nd), doubles (35, 2nd), walks (56, 9th), batting average (.283, 11th), and slugging percentage (.497, 2nd).
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.