By: Nick Recchia
INF/RP - JAKE CRONENWORTH
PHOTO CREDIT: SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE
Acquired along with Tommy Pham in the December 5th trade with the Tampa Rays for OF Hunter Renfroe and prospect Xavier Edwards, Jake Cronenworth comes with much less acclaim than his trade counterparts. That being said, he might end up as important an acquisition in the long term for the Padres as Tommy Pham is in the short term. While playing shortstop last year for the Durham Bulls AAA affiliate for the Rays last year, he was not only the team MVP but led the entire AAA International League in batting average and on base percentage, at .334 and .429 respectively. The addition of quality at bats and on base percentage it seems was a combo addition with Pham.
Cronenworth’s background starts as a prep player from St. Clair High School in St. Clair, Michigan where he went undrafted but found his way on the campus of the Michigan Wolverine. During his three years at Michigan, he played shortstop and was the de facto closer for the team, registrering 27 Saves over his career. After a strong Junior season that saw him post a .338/.419/.494 slash line, he was drafted by the Tampa Rays in the 7th round of the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft. After a successful run as a two way player in college, the Rays like most of the teams at the time, chose to have him focus on one position to focus on over another and he did not see himself take the pitchers mound again until the 2019 campaign. When he did return to the mound, he still possessed a mid 90’s fastball and a knee buckling curveball that would flash plus if not always consistent. This would translate in a small sample size to 7.1 innings pitched, not allowing an earned run and striking out 8.
Outside of his power fastball, power at the plate has never been a big part of Jake’s game with 2019 displaying his career high water mark with 10 homeruns. He is a tough out who works counts and grinds through at bats, rarely giving them away. He walks nearly as much as he strikes out as evidence of his BB% of 12.1% vs his K% of 15.3%. His BABIP of .382 is Fernando Tatis(ish) and not sustainable based on his track record so a slight return to the mean is in order more than likely. Even so, you have a multi tooled middle infielder with the ability to scrap through at bats and find ways to get on base. His ability to play a true shortstop defensively gives him a big leg up on other infielders competing for a roster spot this spring.
The big thing that differentiates Jake from every other one of his teammates in camp minus Javy Guerra, is his ability to contribute to both the position player and pitching groups simultaneously. He won’t be expected to offer big innings out of the pen, but if he can spell the occasional breather for the group, it would be incredibly valuable. In games like that, a pen can be worn down for the rest of that series and next sometimes, and even pose an injury risk of a position player out of his element. He is in camp with a path to succeed as a dual threat compliment and a renaissance man who does it all for the new 26th roster spot on your 2020 San Diego Padres.
Longtime baseball enthusiast who tries to incorporate new age analytics into old school baseball strategy and how the two can coexist in winning harmony. Also a minor league aficionado who delves deep into the farm to share the love of the game from the lower rungs of the minor leagues and up. Always up for sports talk.