Head of the Class: Triple-A

Sluggers Cron, Lux blast off; righty Gallen shuts down hitters

Kevin Cron drilled 45 long balls in 123 games across the Majors and Minors in 2019. (Reno Aces)

By Kelsie Heneghan / MiLB.com | October 3, 2019 10:35 AM

With another Minor League season in the books, members of the MiLB.com staff are looking back at some of the most notable performers from the 2019 campaign for each level. After looking at Double-A, Class A Advanced, Class A, Class A Short Season and Rookie Advanced, we turn our attention to the Triple-A International and Pacific Coast leagues.

Most exciting hitter

D-backs 1B Kevin Cron, Reno: Cron always had a lot of power in him, but he took it to another level in 2019. The 26-year-old led the Minors with 39 homers and a .777 slugging percentage while playing only 84 Minor League games, including two rehab contests in the Arizona League. While the use of Major League balls at the Triple-A level might have provided some help, Cron really improved his game by cutting down his strikeout rate from 26.3 percent in 2016 to 20.4 percent in 2019. Because of that, the TCU product not only brought the power, but he also notched career bests of .329 average, .446 on-base percentage, 107 RBIs, 82 runs and 61 walks. And all that while playing four stints in the Majors. Cron was the clear favorite for this category, though El Paso's Ty France made a strong case with his .399 average in 76 games.

Video: New Orleans' Gallen notches 11th K

Most exciting pitcher

Marlins/D-backs RHP Zac Gallen, New Orleans: Gallen was only in the Pacific Coast League for a mere 14 starts this year, but he left a lasting impression. The University of North Carolina product was unfazed by the offensive outburst of Triple-A hitters, going 9-1 with a 1.77 ERA and a career-low 10 homers over 91 1/3 innings. With a four-pitch mix, highlighted by a cutter, the then-Marlins prospect shut down batters with 112 strikeouts (against 17 walks) for a 33.6 K percentage, which remained tops at the level through the end of the season. He pulled off all this before his 24th birthday on Aug. 3. Gallen's rising stock brought him to Miami on June 20, then to Arizona when he was traded for top prospect Jazz Chisholm. Although Gallen never returned to the Minors, his electrifying 2019 Baby Cakes run lives on.

Best team

Columbus Clippers: Sacramento won the Triple-A National Championship with a postseason surge. El Paso best-utilized the new balls with the most Minor League homers (258) in 45 years. But it was the Clippers who shined from both sides of the ball all season long. Columbus was the only Triple-A team to be among the leaders in multiple hitting and pitching categories, including an International League-topping 213 jacks. Indians farmhands Bobby Bradley, Eric Haase and Brandon Barnes commanded the lineup throughout the campaign, and Ka'ai Tom really stepped up in the playoffs. Michael Peoples and Asher Wojciechowski keyed the rotation, and Josh D. Smith steered the bullpen. All that amounted to Columbus topping the circuit with 81 wins en route to its fourth Governors' Cup in 10 years.

Video: Dodgers' Lux crushes long homer

New kid in town

Dodgers 2B/SS Gavin Lux, Oklahoma City: Lux crashed into the PCL like a wrecking ball. Having already blasted off 13 times in 64 Double-A games, the top Dodgers prospect hit .531 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in his first 15 Triple-A contests. In the following weeks, Lux cooled off a touch but still remained hot for OKC. In 49 games, the left-handed hitter posted a .392/.478/.719 slash line with 13 jacks and 39 RBIs. Lux also worked more walks at the higher level while cutting down his strikeout rate. The praise piled up as the Wisconsin native earned a trip to the All-Star Futures Game, his Major League debut with Los Angeles, the ranking of MLB.com's No. 2 overall prospect and a spot on the Dodgers' postseason roster. Yep, Lux came out swinging and did plenty of damage.

Offseason MiLB include

Biggest performance

D-backs LF Yasmany Tomas, Reno: With a milestone seemingly coming every other day, few feats are truly rare in the Minors. But on May 20, Tomas became just the second player to hit four homers in a single game since 2014. (The first was Will Benson, who did it one month prior.) The 28-year-old homered early and often, starting in the first and ending in the 9th. Tomas also hit to all fields in the action-packed day game while driving in a career-high eight runs and adding a single for good measure. He wasn't the only Aces batter who made history that day, though, as Matt Szczur hit for the cycle. Cron also cleared the fences twice and plated six runs as Reno totaled 10 long balls. After the game, Aces hitting coach Jason Camilli said, "All I know is this was fun, and everything clicked."

Kelsie Heneghan is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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