Not a sleeper post I planned on writing. Jake Cronenworth already broke out, didn’t he? Why is it that some guys break out and are ignored the following season, then you have other guys who break out and are overrated? This fascinates me. Something psychological about it, and I can’t put my finger on it. Let me grab another guy who seemingly broke out and Jake Cronenworth, but leave you in the dark about the other guy for now, and Stamford-up a little experiment on your mind. I call this very scientific experiment: Player A vs. Jake Cronenworth. Jake Cronenworth’s Hit Tool is 60 grade, Player A is 40. Jake Cronenworth’s speed grade is 50, Player A is 50. Jake Cronenworth’s raw power grade is 45, Player A is 50. Jake Cronenworth had a .324 xBA last year which was in the top 2% of the league, Player A had a .263 xBA. Jake Cronenworth’s xSLG was .541 and top 10% of the league, Player A had a .481 and about same as Colin Moran. At worst, you’d say Jake Cronenworth and Player A were a push. At best, you’d want Jake Cronenworth. Here’s the point in our program where I shock you with who Player A is. Any guesses? Want me to just tell you? You’re no fun. It’s Trent Grisham. Same team, not same vibes at all, apparently. Trent Grisham is going about 100 spots sooner than Jake Cronenworth in some drafts. In fact (Grey’s got more!), I like Trent Grisham more than Jake Cronenworth, but should I? So, what can we expect from Jake Cronenworth for 2021 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
What really sticks out with Jake Cronenworth is the Hit Tool. His 25.2% line drive rate coupled with a 7.9% barrel rate is going to produce a solid xBA every year. No one wants the boring-as-mayo Luis Arraez. Well, don’t want Jake Cronengettinghismoneysworthinmayo or Jakeantacidafterspicyfood Cronenworth, either. You get the picture. High batting average is nice, and I think Jake Cronenworth can slap out a .290-ish average without too much effort. His plate discipline is absolutely gorge. He had a swinging strike rate of 5.8%, which was 8th best in the league, and of those eight, he was the only rookie. Of those eight, he was one of two with a 23% or lower amount of pitches swung at outside the zone with Anthony Rendon. Batting average will be no sweat for Cronenworth. Wouldn’t be surprised if he won a batting title or three before he’s done.
His fantasy value is going to boil down to what comes of his speed and power. Know why it’s so disappointing that Jake Cronenworth can’t read pitchers? No, not because Reading is Fundamental. I mean, it is, but because his speed is there. His sprint speed is just above Lewis Brinson, Amed Rosario, Delino DeShizz and Scott Kingery. While being about the same Sprint Speed as Tim Anderson. All 20+ steals guys with opportunities. Cronenworth will step off the plane onto the cacti-loaded plains of Arizona in Spring Training, look around and state he wants to steal more in 2021, then get caught 12 of 18 times. Enthusiasm isn’t the issue. He seems like he wants to steal bags. Put “want” in one hand, and “ability to steal” in the other hand and you have two empty hands. How ya putting “want” and “ability to steal” in your hands? C’mon! Being fast enough to steal vs. being able to steal feels like a 12-steal guy with seven caught stealings. Could he be better? Definitely, if someone coaches him up.
Finally, his power. Even in the comparison to Trent Grisham it showed Jake Cronenworth has less power than him. If Grisham is a 25-homer hitter, then Cronenworth can hit 17-20? Well, maybe. Last year his 29.4% fly ball rate, and a 9.5% HR/FB is gonna make me want to take the under. If he hits fly balls at that rate, he’s going to hit 118 fly balls next year, and with a 10% HR/FB, it’s optimistically, with rounding up, 12-14 homers. Thankfully, his last full year in the minors produced a 12.2% HR/FB. Still a 29% fly ball rate, but that could boost his homers into the 14-17 range. What makes him good also makes him less than ideal for power. Line drives are sailing out of Petco at a rate of 1 in “earthquake hits at exact right moment to tilt earth down and with it Petco’s fences.” Still, the average is elite, he has the speed for 20 steals and could sneak into 17 homers. Definitely Cronenworth the price. For 2021, I’ll give Jake Cronenworth projections of 71/15/77/.298/16 in 541 ABs with a chance for more.