Jake Cronenworth wasn’t a known commodity when he was traded to the San Diego Padres along with Tommy Pham before the 2020 season. Two years later, he is more than just a known commodity—he’s an All-Star.
The 27-year-old took advantage of the opportunity to play first base last season when Eric Hosmer got hurt and he never looked back. After finishing second in the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2020, Cronenworth homered 21 times and drove in more than 70 runs in 2021.
He earned the third most Wins Above Replacement (4.8) among all Padres players, finishing only behind Fernando Tatis Jr. (6.6) and Manny Machado (5.1), who combined to make over $33 million this season. Not bad for a player making $584,900. He would earn $35.3 million a year in free agency based on his 2021 season, according to FanGraphs’ dollar metric. In other words, the Padres have him at a bargain right now and should try and capitalize on their opportunity to spend elsewhere on the roster before they need to pay him.
Alex Bohm, who won the NL Rookie of the Year last season, wasn’t able to prove that 2020 was ‘for real’, as he was sent down at one point during the season. It was a different story for Cronenworth though.
He actually was able to decrease his strikeout and ground ball percentages while increasing his flyball percentage and home run percentage. One of Cronenworth’s offensive highlights this season was when he hit for the cycle in his first game back from attending the 2021 All-Star Game in Denver. He contributed to the Padres’ 24-run display on July 16 in the nation’s capital.
Cronenworth also increased his value to the Padres through strong defense wherever he played on the field, whether it was at second base, shortstop (while Tatis was hurt or playing the outfield), or first base (when Adam Frazier was at second and/or Eric Hosmer was on the bench).
Here’s one of the web gems he made at shortstop:
The Padres have Cronenworth under team control for the next four years but I’d expect both sides to work out an extension well before he’s scheduled to be a free agent in 2026.