Former Michigan Wolverines baseball star and current San Diego Padres utility player Jake Cronenworth is off to a tremendous start to his Major League career, having stolen headlines yet again on Saturday when he smacked his first career grand slam.
It occurred in the second inning and helped pave the way to an impressive 13-2 win over the Houston Astros, with the Padres now sitting at 18-12 and owning the third-best record in the National League (behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs).
Another storyline surrounding Cronenworth is his pursuit of the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award. He leads the league in runs scored (13), hits (26), doubles (eight) and RBI (12), is tied for the NL lead in home runs (three), and possesses a stellar .347 batting average and a .410 on-base percentage.
There are some pitchers he’ll have to fend off for the award (most notably the Dodgers’ Dustin May, the Giants’ Logan Webb, the Mets’ David Peterson and the Reds’ Tejay Antone), but Cronenworth appears to already be far and away the best rookie hitter in the National League.
“Acquired from the Rays in December, Cronenworth was viewed as an average defender with a plus arm and the ability to make all the necessary plays,” MLB.com’s William Boor explained.
“He’s lived up to that billing and then some. The 26-year-old, a seventh-round pick from the 2015 Draft, has seen time at all four infield spots this season and has made both the routine and highlight-worthy plays.
“While he hasn’t been asked to pitch yet, Cronenworth was a two-way player at Michigan and in the Rays’ system, so it’s certainly possible we could see him on the mound at some point this year, too.
“The American League Rookie of the Year race is loaded with options, but at the moment, the NL ballot isn’t nearly as crowded. Cronenworth has clearly put himself in a good position, and if he continues to produce, it’s looking like he may end the season with an addition to his trophy case.”
Below are updates on all former Wolverines currently in the MLB, along with active U-M alums who have appeared in the big leagues before and are currently in Major League organizations:
RP James Bourque, Washington Nationals (Played at U-M from 2012-14)
Made the 11-14 Nationals’ Opening Day roster and proceeded to make two appearances out of the bullpen, pitching 1.1 innings and not giving up an earned run … He was sent to the team’s alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va., on Aug. 6, however, and has not rejoined the big league club since.
INF Jake Cronenworth, San Diego Padres (2013-15)
Is hitting .347 with three home runs, 12 RBI and a .410 on-base percentage in 24 games this season … His .347 batting average, eight doubles and .410 on-base percentage are all the best on San Diego’s team, while his 1.036 OPS is second on the club only to shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.’s 1.073.
“So they know his name, though it’s almost as if opponents aren’t sure who Padres rookie Jake Cronenworth is or where he came from,” Kevin Acee of The San Diego Union-Tribune wrote this morning.
“Earlier this month, the Dodgers’ A.J. Pollock was explaining his mindset during a crucial at-bat and said he was trying ‘not to hit it to that Cronenworth guy because he was making plays all over the field.’
“Yesterday, it was Cronenworth’s single that finally prompted Astros starter Zack Greinke to call for the grounds crew to fix a spot on the mound that had been bothering him much of the day.
“As part of his postgame explanation, Greinke said he, ‘kind of was doing bad to that Cronenworth guy.’ Maybe someday it will just be ‘Cronenworth.'”
Name a rookie having more fun than Jake Cronenworth. And name a team having more fun than the San Diego Padres.
— Katie Woo (@katiejwoo) August 23, 2020
SP Rich Hill, Minnesota Twins (2000-02)
Has thrown 7.2 total innings in two starts for the 19-10 Twins, but has been roughed up to the tune of a 4.70 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP … Was placed on the injured list with shoulder fatigue following his first start of the year on July 29, and didn’t pitch again until Aug. 19 … Gave up four earned runs in just 2.2 innings against the Brewers on Aug. 19 in his first start back.
“It was just a poor outing,” Hill said after the loss to Milwaukee. “Unfortunately, I put us in a really bad position today and lost the game for us. When you get the opportunity to take the ball, you’ve got to perform.
“That’s the way I look at it. I’m a pretty cut-and-dried guy, and I did not pitch well today. I set myself to a high standard, and that was pretty pathetic.”
OF Ryan LaMarre, Chicago Cubs (2008-11)
Signed to a minor league contract by the 17-10 Cubs on July 24, but has yet to appear in the Majors this season … LaMarre played in 14 games last year with the Minnesota Twins, but only hit .217 with two homers and three RBI in 23 at-bats.
SP Clayton Richard, Chicago White Sox (2005)
Signed to a minor league deal by the 17-12 White Sox on Aug. 4, but has yet to receive a call-up to the team’s big league roster … Richard is 36 years old and spent last season with the Toronto Blue Jays, but struggled mightily to the tune of a 5.96 ERA in 45.1 innings pitched and 10 starts.
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