The San Diego Padres possess a very talented rookie named Jake Cronenworth.
Hidden underneath the rise of Fernando Tatis Jr. is another young competitor by the name Jake Cronenworth. Not many people know his name, but he certainly will change that by the end of the season.
Last December, the San Diego Padres finalized a five-player trade that sent outfielder Hunter Renfroe, infielder Xavier Edwards, and infielder Esteban Quiroz to Tampa Bay in exchange for outfielder Tommy Pham and infielder/right-handed pitcher Jake Cronenworth.
At the time, The Padres had no idea what to expect from the minor-leaguer Cronenworth. Tommy Pham was the notable name out of the two, as he helped lead the Rays to the playoffs last season.
San Diego general manager A.J. Preller made a move for Pham but knew that he was getting a two-way star in Cronenworth, and it is clear as to why he brought him here.
The San Diego Padres may have found their next hidden gem.
— Slam Diego Padres (@Padres) August 8, 2020
Through just 29 games, the rookie is quickly making a name for himself. Cronenworth is playing tremendous defense while leading all qualifying National League rookies in multiple offensive categories.
The 2020 season is just about at its halfway point. It is time to seriously consider Cronenworth as the favorite for the NL Rookie of the Year Award. The Padres are in contention for the playoffs, and the 26-year-old has been a crucial part of their success.
The Michigan native made the 30-man roster to start the season. Cronenworth immediately took over at first base for Eric Hosmer early on in the season when Hosmer went to the 10-day injured list. He doubled in his first career at-bat, which scored a run, and since then has yet to lift his foot off the gas pedal.
Jake Cronenworth continues his pursuit of the NL Rookie of the Year Award. pic.twitter.com/2obdSu8rVG
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 18, 2020
The rookie has appeared in 23 of the 29 games and has played first, second, and shortstop all very well. Cronenworth has taken hits away, saved runs, and has quickly inserted himself as a middle-of-the-lineup hitter.
On the defensive side, no one could have predicted how the Michigan Alum would do. He played shortstop during spring training, but when the season started, he filled in nicely for Hosmer at first base. He locked down second base with Jurickson Profar primarily playing in left field and even played shortstop to give Fernando Tatis Jr. a break from the field.
The 26-year-old has shown his defensive capability and has proven he can get the job done where ever he is needed.
Talk about getting a chance and making the absolute MOST of it.
— Slam Diego Padres (@Padres) August 5, 2020
Manager Jayce Tingler is utilizing him in every way possible to get him playing time. Although he throws right-handed, he hits on the left side of the plate, which is much needed for the Padres lineup.
Cronenworth leads all qualifying NL rookies in batting average (.352), plate-appearances (79), hits (25), runs (13), RBIs (11), walks (8), and OBP (.418). His 1.066 OPS (on-base slugging percentage) is the best among ALL qualifying rookies.
Another eye-opening statistic is that he is currently tied with White Sox’ Luis Robert among ALL rookies in extra-base hits with 13 — three homers, eight doubles, and two triples. Robert has six doubles and seven home runs. Cronenworth and Mets’ Andres Gimenez are the only rookies with two triples.
The last Padre to win the NL ROY Award was Benito Santiago in 1987 when he also won the Silver Slugger award at catcher. It is worth mentioning that Wil Myers won the American League ROY Award in 2013 when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays.
San Diego is also familiar with the award as Fernando Tatis Jr. finished third in NL ROY voting in 2019. Mets’ Pete Alonso won the Award with Braves’ Mike Soroka finishing second.
As of now, Cronenworth deserves the recognition as the NL’s top rookie so far. He is must-watch TV and is putting on an offensive clinic during his rookie campaign. Not only is he hitting balls in play at a high rate, but he has clear vision and takes pitches, which leads to a high walk-to-strikeout ratio at .800 (1st among NL rookies). His WAR (wins above replacement) sits at 1.0 and the replacement at 0.2. The team needs him in the lineup one way or another.
The young stud is the missing piece the Padres have been looking for. In just over 20 games, Cronenworth has played his heart out and has made a long-lasting statement not only for himself but for the team as well.
On Thursday, Aug. 20, Cronenworth stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning and smacked an RBI single to center to score Wil Myers, and the rookie had his first career walk-off.
He dabs. He flosses. He walks off.
— Slam Diego Padres (@Padres) August 21, 2020
There were no fans to enjoy the game-winner, but if Petco Park had been filled, the atmosphere would have been electric as the 2020 Padres have been the best show in baseball.
The “Slam Diego Padres” as many are now calling them, launched a grand slam in four-consecutive games, and broke the major league record. No team had more than three games in a row with a grand slam.
Two games after that record-breaking streak, Cronenworth hit the Padres’ sixth grand slam of the season as he smashed a one of his own in the second inning Saturday night. The rookie had his first career 3-hit game.
Niño and Wil and Manny and Hoz and Crone.
— Slam Diego Padres (@Padres) August 23, 2020
If Cronenworth continues to play with the fierce-instinct that he has, then he should have no problem running away with the NL ROY Award.
It is only a matter of time until the entire league knows the name of Jake Cronenworth.