BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Seldom does a player get the opportunity to play for his hometown team. Rarer is a player that bypasses playing for his local club in favor of higher education. But that was the path chosen by Cameron Cannon after the Arizona Diamondbacks took him in the 21st round of the 2016 MLB draft. Cannon instead opted to attend the University of Arizona, where he enjoyed a stellar three-year career while growing on and off the field.
“It was a really tough decision for me to make because the summer before my senior year I played with the Diamondbacks scout team,” Cannon said. “I got to know a couple of guys in the organization and built a relationship with them. So it was a dream come true they drafted me, but I decided to go to Arizona just because I needed to grow as a person and as a baseball player.”
The field of scouting can leave room for interpretation since one size does not fit each player and each has distinct characteristics. When Cannon prepared to enter the 2019 draft, scouts did not have a sense of clarity whether he projected as a shortstop or a second baseman. The ambiguity wasn’t a concern for the Red Sox, who took Cannon with their top selection after watching him become one of the top hitters for the Wildcats.
“I’m blessed that the Red Sox gave me this opportunity,” Cannon said. “I have talked to Bobby Dalbec a few times, and he’s said nothing but great things about the Red Sox organization. I’m very excited to have my career begin here with this franchise. I think things have been going very well thus far and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.”
Although Cannon plays a position predicated on defensive prowess, much of his value comes from his production at the plate. During his junior season at Arizona, he slashed .397/.478/.651 with a 1.129 OPS and earned All-Pac 12 Conference honors. He keeps his hands inside the ball with a tendency to take the pitch to his pull side, resulting in extra-base hits. Power potential exists if Cannon can add to his 5-foot-10, 196-pound frame.
“I think my work ethic was beneficial going into the year I had at Arizona as a junior,” Cannon said. “So every year, I would try to improve, and experience starts to play a factor as you get deeper through college. I would know what to expect going into each season from Arizona Baseball and what they wanted out of me as a player. I think I did a good job of improving and that’s what I hope to do in Lowell.”
During his tenure at Arizona and a stint in the Cape Cod League, Cannon played three infield positions and impressed the Red Sox brass with his versatility. With baseball shifting towards infielders filling a myriad of spots on the diamond, honing his skills on defense will become equally vital to the attributes he displays at the plate. Cannon will look to further his play in the field where he possesses a strong arm and plus footwork.
“The athleticism is very important at every infield position these days since shifting has become such an important part of the game these days at each level,” Cannon said. “Third baseman play shortstop every once in a while, or the shortstop plays second base, so you need to play everywhere. That type of athleticism plays a bigger factor on the left side of the infield. I like to play the game hard and intelligently.”
While shortstop is his primary position, some scouts infer that Cannon could eventually move to second base or third base. Last spring, he made 22 errors at shortstop and experienced a sharp decline in fielding percentage. But despite recent difficulties, the expectation is for Cannon to make enough adjustments at shortstop thanks to his natural tools and a consistent work ethic.
“I’ve learned a lot as a defender since turning pro,” Cannon said. “I try to slow the game down when I’m in the field. (Former Yankees infielder) Andy Fox, our fielding coordinator at the minor league level, is doing a great job with us with our preparation. And the adjustments I’ve made with him since joining the Red Sox organization will help me with my defensive game, so I’m excited.”
One source of guidance for Cannon as he prepares to embark on a career in professional baseball is his half-brother Tanner Murphy, a 2010 draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles. Murphy and Cannon share a close bond, and Murphy helps mentor Cannon on the finer points of the game. These include the challenges he’ll face as he begins his career in the New York-Penn League with the Lowell Spinners.
“I talk to Tanner Murphy almost every day and we actually just came off a road trip in Aberdeen. So it was really cool to see the ballpark where he once played,” Cannon said. “I’ve been to that field a few times before when he was playing at Aberdeen. I spent time with his host family back then and actually met with them again a couple of days ago. So it was really good to come back and play on the field where my brother used to play. I learned from him the passion of the game and the work ethic growing up with him.”
Cannon is highest-drafted infielder taken by the Red Sox out of Arizona since Bobby Dalbec, who went in the fourth round in 2016. Dalbec, the second-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization, spoke with Cannon shortly after the draft with encouragement and a feeling of acceptance. The club hopes that Cannon could eventually follow Dalbec’s lead and move his way through the system due to a keen batting eye and strong pitch recognition.
“Bobby Dalbec gave me some advice about building relationships with the people around the Red Sox,” Cannon explains. “Especially during my first year as I get to know the organization and what they want and expect out of me as a player. I’m super grateful to have him on my side where I can text him or call him. He’s willing to give me the advice that I need. I’m happy I built a relationship with Dalbec and turn to him when needed.”