It was 25 years ago that Larry Walker won the franchise’s first National League MVP Award thanks to an NL-leading 49 home runs and top-marks in on-base and slugging percentage. Walker was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2021 and remains the only player in Rockies history to reach Cooperstown or to have won an MVP Award.

Larry Walker Award for Most Valuable Player

Valuable is a word that can have multiple interpretations to different people. 

In sports, value is used to describe performance as a matter of results – in both counting numbers and rate statistics – as well as performance in relation to that player’s contract. Should a player be acquired via trade, then their value may pertain to the performance of what their team surrendered in the deal. 

In baseball, the Most Valuable Player is mostly often viewed as the best player in a given season, regardless of their contract or the details of their acquisition.

Five players stood out from the 2022 Colorado Rockies as being valuable in at least one respective department.

Daniel Bard was the punctuation on a Rockies win 34 of the 36 opportunities he took the ball late in a close game. Kyle Freeland and Germán Márquez were the most consistent starting pitchers in a rotation hampered by injuries and poor performances.

Defensively, it was National League Gold Glove Award winner Brendan Rodgers who helped stabilize Colorado’s infield. Rodgers also provided a lot of value and memories at the plate. 

But it was one man, the team’s lone All-Star who provided more value through his run production, not to mention lineup protection, than any other during Colorado’s 68-win campaign.

Jul 19, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; National League first baseman C.J. Cron (25) of the Colorado Rockies during batting practice before the 2022 MLB All Star Game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

C.J. Cron

Cron ended 2021 with 28 home runs and 92 runs batted in, making for a rare Rockies season where no one reached either the 30 homer or 100 RBI mark.

This year, he went into the All-Star break batting .298 with 21 long balls and 69 RBI, earning his first selection to the Midsummer Classic in the process. 

The 32-year-old improved upon an important element of his game: defense.

After looking a bit awkward at first base early in his tenure with the Rockies, his defensive momentum from late last season propelled him into 2022.

He reduced his error total from 10 to seven and finished with a .994 fielding percentage at first base. That’s just outside the top 10 all-time in franchise history for first basemen. (Three-time Gold Glove Award winner Todd Helton occupies seven of those spots.)

Cron was third among NL first baseman in defensive runs saved and though he finished with 0 outs above average, this was good for 14th-best among the 36 qualified players at the position.

Aug 31, 2022; Cumberland, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Braves second baseman Vaugn Grissom (18) is forced out at first base by C.J. Cron (25) in the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Larry Robinson-USA TODAY Sports

Though his on-base and slugging percentage dipped from last year mostly due to a lackluster second half, Cron provided lineup protection for the other breakout bat for Colorado.

Between the 148 games Cron was in the starting lineup and the 136 games for Rodgers, the pair batted together in the batting order 80 times.

Logic suggests Cron provided lineup protection for the 25-year-old second baseman while batting behind, but he did this only 29 times. Cron hit in front of Rodgers 51 times this season and the proof is in the pudding.

When hitting second or third, Rodgers batted .213 with three home runs and 14 RBI. When batting in spots behind Cron, fourth or fifth in the order where his numbers were strongest, he hit .296 with eight home runs and 34 RBI. His overall OPS was markedly higher when behind Cron than when in front. 

Cron provided the fireworks all season long in the form of his moon shots, including one at home measured at an estimated 504 ft on Sept 10 against Arizona, the second-longest in Coors Field history during the Statcast Era (since 2015).

With Rodgers another year wiser, Kris Bryant much healthier, Freeland and Márquez a little more sharper and rookies like Michael Toglia and Ezequiel Tovar prepared for a full-season of contributions, Cron should undoubtedly have more competition in 2023.

Right now, Cron is that guy most valuable to the Rockies in 2022.