The San Diego Padres are getting phenomenal results from Jake Cronenworth early in his career.
Although not known as a slugger, Cronenworth’s main value apparently lay in his ability to play multiple positions, including pitcher in a pinch.
However, as the 2020 season unraveled thanks to Covid-19, and the focus turned to a truncated schedule and the excitement about Fernando Tatis Jr.’s second season, no one paid much attention to Cronenworth.
What a difference a year makes.
Almost three months into his second season, Jake Cronenworth should be in any discussion of the most valuable players for the Padres.
Indeed, Cronenworth’s numbers last year placed him in the running for the National League Rookie of the Year award. Among NL rookies, Cronenworth ranked at or near the top in several categories:
1st Runs (26)
1st Doubles (15)
1st Triples (3)
2nd Hits (49)
2nd BB (18)
2nd RBI (20)
3rd OPS (.831)
3rd HR (4)
4th Avg. (.285)
Devin Williams (a reliever for the Milwaukee Brewers) ended up taking home the award for the National League. In San Diego, the question turned to whether or not Cronenworth’s eye-opening performance on both sides of the ball had been a flash in the pan or the real deal. Almost three months into the season, the former unknown has picked up where he left off in 2020.
In most offensive stats, Cronenworth ranks close to the top of team stats. According to FanGraphs version of total WAR, his 1.6 sits just below the 1.8 shared by Tatis Jr., Yu Darvish, and Trent Grisham. Once again, his versatility defensively has been invaluable.
Looking back, if Eric Hosmer not been sidelined with an unidentified stomach problem in late July 2020, Cronenworth’s value may never have been realized. Despite having only played one game at first in the minor leagues, he performed as if he belonged there. All told, he played first in nine games and 38 at second last year.
Instead of lapsing into a sophomore slump as so many promising players do, Cronenworth has picked up where he left off on defense and at the plate. He’s batting .292/360/.438/.797, a similar line to last year’s .285/.354/.477/.831. He’s also been featured in several highlight reels thanks to his acrobatic defense.
In Wednesday’s 2-1 victory against the Milwaukee Brewers, a thankful Chris Paddack saluted him with the ultimate compliment, “He’s a ballplayer, man.”
— Bally Sports San Diego (@BallySportsSD) May 27, 2021
Obviously, plays like that require a degree of flexibility missing in ballplayers who rely on beefing up in the weight room. Although many teams have added Yoga and other disciplines to players’ fitness regime, Cronenworth relies on his mat. Physically Yoga increases core strength, flexibility, balance, and range of motion, but it has other less tangible advantages.
Jake Cronenworth out there doin yoga. What a damn play for the snubbed 2020 Rookie of the Year #Padres
— Austin Maida (@Maida904) April 23, 2021
Carolyn Mack, a certified yoga instructor for over 30 years in Encinitas, learned of Crononeworth’s fitness routine last year when a couple of the Padre players were wearing live mics in the dugout during the pregame show. One of them looked out on the field and asked, “Who’s that doing yoga out there?”
“That’s Cronenworth,” said the other player.
“That got my attention,” Mack recalls. “As I observed Jake last year and this season, I saw that he exhibits a consistently calm, even-mindedness, focused and determined presence, all qualities of a great yogi. He also showed the humility of a true yogi when he stated in his post-game interview on Wednesday night that he never expected to be batting 3rd in the big leagues and would be ready wherever they put him in the lineup.”
That humility and mindedness may have helped Jake Cronenworth weather his five years in the minor leagues without a callup, and it’s certainly helped him survive the pressure of pennant races. Obviously, general manager A.J. Preller saw some promise in the 25-year-old when he included him in the trade, but no one envisioned the role he would play in the San Diego Padres’success so far.