Jake Cronenworth - Creating The Big Three in San Diego
Jake Cronenworth was drafted by the Rays back in 2015 out of Michigan. In his time there, Jake registered 27 saves, batted .312, and stole 42 bases. What stuck out to scouts was his glove, arm, and plate recognition. As a pitcher, Jake routinely hit 96 mph and played every infield position. After ditching the pitching and focusing more on the plate, Cronenworth nabbed All star recognition four out of the five years in the minors. Because of his athleticism and pure defensive talent, the Padres traded for him in the Tommy Pham for Renfroe trade last year. In 54 games this year, Jake's splits were .285/.354/.477 and would have won Rookie of the Year if not for the outstanding performance of Devin Williams for the Brewers.
Outs Above Average (OAA) 89th percentile
Defensive Runs Saved (DRS): At 2B: 0
Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR): 1.7
Cronenworth spent a majority of his career in the minors at shortstop. On the Padres, there's some guy named Fernando Tatis Jr who's decent at the position already, so Jake played second base for most of the year. Cronenworth's arm (mid 90's fastball) and shortstop caliber glove already puts him in the top half of the league defensively. He sported a 96% success rate on balls hit his way which ranked only behind Ozzie Albies and Adam Frazier on the year. His ability to adapt to playing second rather than his natural position of short, shows the talent he possesses on the defensive end. Jake can also slot in at third and first if needed, further elevating his value.
xBA 98th percentile
xwOBA 95th percentile
K% 84th percentile
BB%: 54th percentile
Whiff: 91th percentile
With similar batting scores to Goldschmidt, George Springer, and Justin Turner, it's evident that Cronenworth's bat is ready for major league action. Out of 257 qualified batters last year, Cronenworth ranked 15th in xwOBA (exit velo, launch angle, sprint speed), and 6th in xBA (likelihood a batted ball would become a hit)
Among second basemen, he was first in each category. Like usual, here are some charts showing his dominance in the zone this past year:
The third graph, misses by zone, is impressive. On 754 pitches this past year, Jake only had 50 swing and misses. From what I'm seeing, Cronenworth excels at keeping his hands in and crushing those inside pitches. Here's a great example:
On the topic of missed pitches, Cronenworth is impressive with his plate disicpline. He chases 19% of the time, compared to the major leage average of 28.2%. He rarely swings on the first pitch, only 15.1% of the time, compared to the major league average of 28.3%. As mentioned before, he doesn't whiff either (16.7% compared to 24.5%). Lastly, he doesn't pop the ball up (2.8%), which is what boosts the xBA.
Hitting for Power
Exit Velo (EV) 66th percentile
Hard Hit: 68th percentile
xSLG: 91st percentile
Barrel: 70th percentile
Most of Cronenworth's hard hit balls stay in the park, but that's not a bad thing. Because of his patience mentioned above, Cronenworth wears down pitchers, and then capitalizes on their mistakes. Out of all second basemen, Jake was only behind Brandon Lowe in xSLG. The disparity for Cronenworth from his normal SLG and xSLG (.477 to .541) was the biggest difference of all second basemen and 15th in all of the qualified hitters last year. What does this mean? Take Marcel Ozuna from this past year. Two years ago, he had the biggest difference in SLG to xSLG. This year? Ozuna won the DH of the year for the NL (still feels weird to type that out). Basically, Jake was extremely unlucky on hard hit balls. Take this screamer, at 110 mph:
On a hit at this launch angle (18 degrees) and this speed, the batting average on this is .873. If you dive into Statcast, you notice Cronenworth has a decent amount of these bad luck outs. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but there is room for improvement in his statistics next year considering how unlucky he was.
Sprint Speed: 92nd percentile
Jake's got wheels. He ranks fourth among all second basemen and 40th out of 454 qualified players. While defensively sprint speed doesn't affect the infield positions, it's great for stretching those frozen ropes into doubles and triples.
Jake Cronenworth's ability in the field at multiple positions and league leading xBA/xSLG numbers, solidify his spot at second for the Padres. I would keep an eye on his power numbers next year, because of the xSLG trend I mentioned above. It's extremely rare for a hitter to have that big of a disparity in SLG/xSLG numbers to not improve the following year. Coupling this aspect with his plate discipline leads me to the conclusion that Cronenworth will be a top five second basemen next year. Along side Manny Machado, and Fernando Tatis Jr, the Padres may have the best infield in the game right now and for the future.