Things are not too sunny in San Diego right now.
As of this writing, the Padres are sitting at 49-54.
There is a certain player who has proven he can produce at All-Star levels before, but it feels like forever since we have seen that version of him.
Some believe this man will play arguably the most pivotal role in which direction the rest of the Padres season goes. If it wasn’t obvious already, that player is Jake Cronenworth. Can he re-discover that breakthrough sustained success?
Will he continue to build this habit of inconsistent production?
Let’s dive into the curious case of Jake Cronenworth.
It is certainly no secret that Jake Cronenworth has taken a big step back this season. Acquired in the December 2019 trade involving Tommy Pham, Hunter Renfroe, and Xavier Edwards, we are now coming up on four years in “the Crone Zone.”
His fantastic defense and solid production at the plate earned him a sizable extension, keeping him in San Diego for potentially the rest of his career. As a 29-year-old, the Padres gave him a seven-year/$80 million extension. A lot of Padres fans were indeed receptive to the extension, as it was a long-term, affordable deal for an all-around player. Cronenworth also had been extremely versatile on defense and was durable.
What was not to like?
Slightly over 100 games since that contract was signed, a lot has changed.
Jake Cronenworth has gone from a fan favorite to one of the most frustrating players on this team. To the naked eye, it feels like he’s going to get a hit every plate appearance. He’s got a beautiful swing and a knack for contact. However, this season so far has been a major struggle for Cronenworth. His slash line sits at .208/.308/.355. His OPS is at a subpar .657. His OPS+ (the best stat in baseball, in my opinion) is sitting at 85 this season, meaning he has been 15% worse at the plate this year than the average player.
Ever since his debut in 2019, Cronenworth’s OPS+ has been on the decline. In his four seasons in the league, it has been a downward sloping curve, starting at 129, then 122, 110 in 2022, and is now at a disappointing 85. This could be cause for big concern, as Cronenworth is now under contract through his age 36 season in 2030.
If he continues to underwhelm at the plate, what are the Padres supposed to do? How long do they wait before it becomes too much of a liability?
Going forward, these numbers need to improve. Despite his elite defense, Cronenworth must improve at the plate if he is to receive the designation of being an everyday MLB player. Not only that, but his team desperately needs the return of his above-average left-handed bat.
If Cronenworth can re-discover his form, that could be the boost this offense needs to push the Padres into the playoffs this season. If not, and he continues to produce below-average results (especially in key spots), then not only will the immediate future of this Padres team be on very unstable ground, but so will Jake Cronenworth’s MLB career.
For a lot of major league hitters, one bad season at the plate is enough for MLB teams to take drastic action. He is currently playing the Padres into a tough spot, which is not usually a good thing for either party. You can hope Cronenworth gets on track and be the overall ball player he is capable of being. However, if he doesn’t turn it around fast, the infielder and his franchise are both in big trouble.
Max is from San Diego and is a lifelong Padres fan. He currently attends TCU, and is a big Frogs fan. He enjoys essentially all sports, especially the MLB and the NBA.