June 2015: Cronenworth signed with the Rays when they chose him in the 7th round, out of the Univ. of Michigan. He served as both a first baseman and closer for the Wolverines.
Jacob credits his family, especially his father, Charles E. Cronenworth, for inspiring him to play baseball and for helping to instill the tough, disciplined attitude that he carries to this day.
“My dad had a heavy influence on my athletic career in general,” Cronenworth said. “I model a lot of what I do after what he did.”
Cronenworth’s family is also responsible for his love of hockey. Both his father and grandfather, Charles L. Cronenworth, played hockey at Michigan Tech.
The elder Cronenworth was even offered a tryout with the New York Rangers in 1944, but instead chose to enlist in the US Marine Corps where he obtained the rank of First Lieutenant. Toughness runs in the family.
But of all of Cronenworth’s fans, none match the dedication of his grandmother, Lorraine. She has been to every one of his games. She isn’t afraid of weather, travel or anything else. She just wants to see Jacob play. In many ways, Lorraine’s fearlessness is just like Jacob’s.
“She’ll be sitting right in the first row,” Cronenworth said. “Rain, snow, wind, sun shining, cold — she’s here every game. I really appreciate her coming out to support me.”
The appreciation extends beyond just Jake himself, though.
“My grandma always brings cookies for the team,” Cronenworth said. “They love it. It’s awesome.” (Jamess Coller - Michigan Daily - 3/26/2015)
Jaccob played hockey at St. Clair High School in Michigan, as well as for Team USA in the 2009 National Team Identification Series. The rough physical nature of hockey requires players to be fearless, and Cronenworth fits the bill.
It was Cronenworth’s junior season that sticks out from his high-school career. At the plate he hit .564 with 18 doubles and 46 RBI. And on the mound, he posted a 10-0 record and a 1.82 ERA. In the Saints’ 4-1 victory in the Division 2 state championship game, Cronenworth pitched a complete-game three-hitter.
“That whole season was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Jake said in 2015. “Nearly everyone on that team was a junior or a senior, and we grew up playing little-league baseball together. We always stay in touch since most of us play college sports.”
- Jake comes equipped with intangibles and natural leadership ability. And he is an intense grinder.
At Michigan, Cronenworth's freshman year in 2013, he hit .320 with 41 RBI — good for 10th in the Big Ten. In the process, he reached base in 21 consecutive games and posted a 16-game hit streak. The strong play was enough to earn him a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team and All-Big Ten second team honors. He was even named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American.
His fearlessness paid off on the mound, too. Cronenworth finished 2013 with 23.1 innings pitched, seven saves and a 1.93 ERA. He surrendered a scant five walks during the season.
In 2014, he pitched 25.2 innings over 18 contests, notched 12 saves — a single-season record for a Michigan pitcher. And he put up a 1.79 ERA in the process. He also hit a disappointing .268, but drew 41 walks.
- In 2015, Jake got drafted by the Rays (see Transactions below).
In 2018, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Cronenworth as the 22nd-best prospect in the Rays' organization. He missed the book in 2019 but was at #15 in the spring of 2020.
May 18, 2019: The Rays are making infielder Jake Cronenworth into a two-way player. He opened a game for Triple-A Durham and pitched one scoreless inning. It was the first game he has pitched this season.
This didn’t come as a surprise to Rays manager Kevin Cash, who said Cronenworth, 25, had thrown bullpen sessions and pitched live batting practices in the past few weeks.
Cash said Cronenworth’s stuff graded out pretty well. Cronenworth was batting .367 (51-for-139) with two homers and 18 RBIs for Durham. (Bill Ladson -MLB.com)
Jake put in a whole lot of work in the offseason before 2019 spring training. Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said he was not surprised that Cronenworth had broken out.
"Jake has been the same player since the day he signed," Lukevics said in June 2019. "Not too high, not too low. Great intangibles—attitude, coachability, aptitude, work ethic. His is putting it all together now."
Enhancing Cronenworth's intrigue quotient is that he no longer is focused only on hitting.
The Rays quietly approached him in spring training about becoming a two-way player once again after he had pitched and played the field in college.
Initially reluctant, Cronenworth began by throwing bullpen sessions. Then he tried pitching live batting practice. By the time he made his first appearance for Durham on May 18, he was reaching the mid-90s and showing a swing-and-miss curveball.
- In 2019 for the Durham Bulls, Cronenworth took the mound 7 times, not allowing a single run. In 7 innings, he gave up 4 hits and struck out 9. He has a 92-96 mph FASTBALL, a decent CUTTER, and a SLIDER that flashes 55.
This was enough to convince him and the Rays to stick with the two-way plan. He touched 96 mph and threw a swing-and-miss curveball.
It is easy to see a scenario where he could come in and pitch to a couple batters and then return to the field.
"I’d love to do that,’’ he said. "If that’s another opportunity I can help my team by doing that, that’s great.’’
MLB debut (July 26, 2020): Why waste any time? Cronenworth picked up his first hit, an RBI double, in his first career at-bat. The Padres two-way prospect entered the game as a pinch runner, in the eighth, then came through at the plate in the ninth.
2020 season: Jake Cronenworth had been the most productive hitter in the 2020 NL draft class before and end of season slump drastically halted his ROY campaign. The Padres’ infielder finished the regular season with 49 hits, 172 at-bats, and an NL rookie leading 15 doubles and three triples. He also ranks highly in home runs (4), RBI (23), and holds a solid .285 average.
His combination of offensive abilities and defensive flexibility should give Jake a long and productive career. (Allen Settle)
In 2020, Cronenworth won NL Rookie of the Year honor, which is voted on by his peers.
Nov. 5, 2020: Cronenworth was named National League Rookie of the Year after receiving five of seven first-place votes from the Baseball Digest panel.
2020 Season: Jake Cronenworth, who broke out as one of the sport’s most impactful infielders and the Padres’ long-term answer at second base, built quite a case to be named the National League’s top rookie.
But he came up short. That distinction instead belongs to Milwaukee right-hander Devin Williams, who was named the NL’s Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award winner by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Cronenworth finished in a tie for second place with Philadelphia’s Alec Bohm. They both received 74 points in the vote totals, finishing well behind Williams’ 95. Jake received six first-place votes.
The results were, perhaps, something of a surprise considering Cronenworth’s overall value and the volume of his contributions. Williams was as dominant as any reliever in the sport, posting a 0.33 ERA across 22 appearances.
But Cronenworth was a regular in the Padres infield and his 1.4 WAR topped the other two finalists. He batted .285/.354/.477 while dazzling defensively—starting at first base, then at second, and occasionally playing shortstop, too. (AJ Cassavell - MLB.com - Nov 9, 2020)
July 2021: Cronenworth was chosen to represent the Padres in the All-Star Game.
2021 Season: Cronenworth had an outstanding second year. He made it clear that his 2020 season wasn’t a fluke.
In 2021, he batted .266 with an OPS of .800 and OPS+ of 122. Over 152 games, he smashed 21 home runs, 33 doubles, and seven triples.
He was a solid defender, too, racking up a Defensive Runs Saved of 5 and defensive bWAR of 0.8. In all, he finished the year with a phenomenal WAR of 4.9.
Cronenworth was rewarded for his stellar production with an All-Star selection. (Sam Leweck - Nov 1, 2021)
- June 2015: Cronenworth signed with the Rays when they chose him in the 7th round, out of the Univ. of Michigan. He served as both a first baseman and closer for the Wolverines.
- Dec 6, 2019: The Padres traded OF Hunter Renfroe, 2B Xavier Edwards, and a PTBNL to the Rays; acquiring OF Tommy Pham and INF Jake Cronenworth.
|Birth City:||St. Clair, MI|
|Draft:||Rays #7 - 2015 - Out of Univ. of Michigan|
In 2020, Cronenworth was an impressive lefthanded bat for the Padres in the Covid-shortened season.
Jake debuted as a pinch-runner, doubled in his first at-bat and didn’t receive his first start until the sixth game of the season.
Initially viewed as a short-term answer at first base against righthanders, Cronenworth hit so much that he displaced second baseman Jurickson Profar upon Eric Hosmer’s returned from an IL stint.
“We knew Jake was a good ballplayer,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said late in the 2020 season. “I trust him in the box. I trust him with his decision-making. I trust him on the bases. And I certainly trust him with the ball hitting his glove and him delivering the ball to the right base with a good throw.”
“Whether I’m coming off the bench that day or in the starting lineup," Cronenworth said, "my goal is to do one thing that’s going to help this team win." (Jeff Sanders - Baseball America - Nov 2020)
Jake has outstanding plate discipline and pitch recognition skills. He really has a great knowledge of the strike zone. And in 2019, the work he'd done in the gym took him from and impressive singles hitter, to a lefty hitter who lines doubles in the gaps and has a 55 grade hit tool and 45 grade power.
Cronenworth is a pure hitter who has long been able to hit for average thanks to a clean, fluid stroke from the left side of the plate. His over-the-fence power finally emerged in 2019 after he tacked on muscle and adopted a more aggressive approach, and he's always had the ability to manage the strike zone well while getting on base at a high clip. (Spring 2020)
Jacob makes excellent contact, and he has a true grasp of what a pitcher will throw in various situations, having been a pitcher at the University of Michigan.
"I think having been a pitcher in college has helped a lot at the plate," Jake said in 2019. "Playing on that side of the plate, I can see things from a pitcher's point of view. I can see the strike zone the way a pitcher sees the strike zone. I have some insights into what pitch a pitcher might throw in a certain count. I use that to my advantage.
"I think understanding the strike zone is a big asset for a leadoff hitter. You're trying to set the tone, and knowing the strike zone and knowing pitchers helps you get on base."
Jake became low a little more upright and open in his stance.
Combining that with better pitch selection and strike-zone awareness, along with a whole-field hitting approach, has all made Cronenworth a better hitter, particularly against pro breaking balls.
Cronenworth has a solid approach at the plate. He is a confident hitter, whose bat is ahead of his glove.
Jake also does the little things, like moving a runner over. He is a savvy baseball player.
Top rookie Statcast performers of 2020:
Highest xwOBA: Jake Cronenworth—.386. Expected Weighted On-Base Average helps identify which hitters make the best contact. And no rookie made more contact in 2020 than Cronenworth. Ríos (also .386) didn’t trail him by much, though, and Hayes (.356) wasn’t too far behind either.
Highest xBA: Jake Cronenworth, Padres—.324. Cronenworth was widely viewed as the fourth-best player in the offseason Tommy Pham-Hunter Renfroe swap between the Rays and Padres, but the 26-year-old infielder proved to be one of the very best rookies in 2020, batting .285/.354/.477 over 54 games.
But while his average ranked eighth among qualified rookies, his xBA of .324 was far away the best in this year’s class as well as the sixth-best mark among all big leaguers.
Nick Madrigal (.304 xBA) and Hayes (.300) were the next closest to Cronenworth, with both players ranking among the top 25 in baseball.
2020 Season: Settling in as San Diego’s starting second baseman, Cronenworth hit .285 with four homers and an .831 OPS (128 OPS+) over 192 plate appearances. He tied Alec Bohm for second in the voting for the NL Rookie of the Year Award. (T Harrigan - MLB.com - Jan 3, 2021)
June 28, 2021: Cronenworth's recent home run surge earned him NL Player of the Week honors. Cronenworth hit home runs in four consecutive games for San Diego to start the week, including in all three games of the Padres' sweep of the rival Dodgers. The 27-year-old led the Majors with a 1.481 OPS for the week after hitting .391/.481/1.000.
Cronenworth's 1.000 slugging percentage was also an MLB best, and his nine RBIs led the NL. It's the first career Player of the Week Award for Cronenworth, who's the Padres' fourth winner this season.
July 16, 2021: The Padres vowed to start their second half strong. Give ’em credit, they couldn’t have started it much stronger than this. On a record-setting offensive night, Jake Cronenworth was the star, hitting for the cycle in the Padres’ 24-8 rout of the Nationals.
In the first half of the season, Jake became an All-Star. One night into the second, he made history. Cronenworth doubled in the second inning, tripled in the third and homered in the fifth, before legging out an infield single in the sixth to complete the cycle. (AJ Cassavell - MLB.com - July 17, 2021)
Jake was a pitcher and first baseman for the Michigan Wolverines. He moved to second base his first year as a pro in 2015; then moved to shortstop in 2016.
Cronenworth's athleticism and quickness give him solid range at shortstop, where he's viewed as an average defender with good hands who's capable of making all the necessary plays. Cronenworth's biggest asset as a shortstop is the plus arm strength that prompted the Rays to give him another shot at pitching. Serving as an "opener" at Triple-A Durham, Cronenworth operated with a 94-96 mph fastball that he paired with a knee-buckling curveball and a cutter that touches 90. With the potential to offer real value as both an infielder and a reliever, Cronenworth appears poised to become a legitimate two-way talent at the highest level. (Spring 2020)".
I think moving to shortstop has been a positive change," Cronenworth said in 2016. "I didn't think it was going to happen. In college, I changed positions all the time. I was a second baseman, a shortstop, a third baseman, a pitcher. So having that experience helped me a lot when I got moved from second to short.
"I've been working hard every day. At shortstop, you see different hops, you have different reads. There's a lot of footwork to learn. Fortunately, I've received a lot of great instruction."
- In the 2019 Baseball America Best Tools survey, managers, coaches and scouts ranked Cronenworth as Best Infield Arm, Best Defensive Shortstop, and Best Batting Prospect in the International League.
- Jake is a 55 grade runner who can swipe a few bases.
July 17-Aug. 25, 2019: Cronenworth was on the IL with a hamstring injury.