Rookie Review: Jake Cronenworth: Was It Really A Breakout Or Does Disappoint Await?

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Jake Cronenworth was unheralded entering the 2020 season, but his positional flexibility and strong start earned him an opportunity that he didn’t let pass him by. The difference in his production, between August and September, was stark and before we get overly excited we need to ask who the real Cronenworth is:

  • August – .355 with 4 HR, 16 RBI and 18 R
  • September – .183 with 0 HR, 3 RBI and 6 R

Even while he was struggling he added 6 doubles in September, finishing the year with 15 doubles and 3 triples over 192 PA. That’s going to give hope that he can continue to grow in terms of his power, especially as he learns to put more balls in the air (29.4% flyball rate).

It helps that his approach was elite, despite it being his rookie season, with a 5.8% SwStr% and 22.4% O-Swing%. It’s fair to wonder what the effects of starting pitchers making adjustments will be on his production, as he saw the number of fastballs drop as the year went on (65.34% in August vs. 59.05% in September). However his ability to make consistent contact against all types of pitches helps to ease those issues (Whiff%):

  • Hard – 4.05%
  • Breaking – 9.88%
  • Offspeed – 11.61%

Cronenworth hit .318 with a .727 SLG against changeups last season, so the approach of the opposing pitchers isn’t the issue. When coupled with the developing power for the 26-year old, his willingness to use the entire field (30.8% Oppo%) and speed (he had 22 SB in the minors in ’18) and the arrow is clearly pointing up.

A left-handed swinger, he did struggle against southpaws last season (.218 with 0 HR in 55 AB). That wasn’t the case at Triple-A in ’19, however:

  • vs. RHP – .321/.415/.482
  • vs. LHP – .357/.453/.587

In other words the biggest question is where he will play, or if he’ll be more of a Ben Zobrist type super utility player. That will depend on the offseason maneuvers from the team, but having played 1B, 2B, SS and 3B last season there seems to be a good chance he’s in the lineup regularly.

While you can argue he broke out in ’20, even bigger things could come in 2021.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, MILB.com, Baseball Savant

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