Two years ago, C.J. Cron was a Baseball America Rookie-level All-Star. In 2012, he was named California League Rookie of the Year. This season, however, his numbers declined and awards eluded him.
Maybe it was the better competition he saw at Double-A or perhaps it the wear and tear of a long season took a toll. Whatever the reason, the Arizona Fall League has been the perfect tonic for the 2011 first-round Draft pick.
The Angels No. 2 prospect continued his resurgence on Friday afternoon, going 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles, a walk, two RBIs and a run scored to lead Mesa to a 6-1 victory over Surprise.
"I felt pretty good today," Cron said. "The sun helped me out on a couple of those, but overall, I thought I swung the bat pretty well."
Cron raised his average to a league-leading .393 and ranks second on the Solar Sox with 13 RBIs, four behind Cubs No. 4 prospect Kris Bryant.
The 23-year-old first baseman is getting back to the basics: sticking to his usual approach and having fun. And it's a lot easier for Cron and his teammates to enjoy the game with Mesa sitting atop the AFL East with a week left in the season.
"We've played a month and a half of baseball and no matter how short the season is, it sucks to lose," the University of Utah product said. "We're going out there trying to win a ring and have fun and win some games."
Aside from the offensive contributions of Cron and Bryant, the Solar Sox also have Nationals No. 11 prospect Sammy Solis to thank for their success. On Friday, the 25-year-old southpaw gave up a run on five hits while fanning five over 4 2/3 innings. Solis (4-2) leads the league in wins and strikeouts (25).
"He's been solid for us this season," Cron said. " You know it's going to be a quick day when he's on the mound and he'll put up a lot of zeroes. And that's what he did today."
Nationals top prospect Brian Goodwin chipped in three hits and two RBIs, while A's top prospect Addison Russell was 3-for-5 with three runs scored for the Solar Sox.
Garin Cecchini, Boston's seventh-ranked prospect, drew a bases-loaded walk to produce the Saguaros' lone run.
Orioles No. 2 prospect Eduardo Rodriguez started for Surprise and was charged with three runs on seven hits over three innings. He struck out four and walked one.