Jake Cronenworth offers intrigue as a legitimate two-way player with solid hitting ability and speed, not to mention a fastball that climbs into the mid-90s. Yet he was the most anonymous and featured the least upside of the four players involved in a December trade that sent him and Tommy Pham to the Padres and Hunter Renfroe and middle-infield prospect Xavier Edwards to the Rays.
Cronenworth jumped into the spotlight during the last week, however, when he was the most productive rookie in baseball. The 2015 seventh-rounder from Michigan homered twice in four starts at first base in place of an injured Eric Hosmer, started another game at second base once Hosmer returned and doubled while replacing Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop in the late innings on Sunday.
Cronenworth headlines MLB Pipeline's list of the hottest rookies, in which we focus on the top performers from Aug. 3-9.
1. Jake Cronenworth, INF/RHP, Padres (No. 19)
Cronenworth made the most of his opportunity when Hosmer fell ill and may take over for the slumping Jurickson Profar at second base. He's hitting .357/.379/.821 with seven extra-base hits in his first 28 big league at-bats and has yet to see any action on the mound.
2. Phillip Evans, 3B, Pirates (unranked on Top 30)
Signed as a free agent in December, Evans batted .400/.429/.550 last week and slugged his first big league homer off Matthew Boyd on Friday. But his first extended run of success in the Majors and his season came to an end the next day when he sustained a concussion and fractured jaw after colliding with teammate Gregory Polanco while chasing a fly ball in foul territory.
3. Randy Dobnak, RHP, Twins (unranked on Top 30)
After going undrafted and beginning his pro career in independent ball in 2017, Dobnak has emerged as a surprise for the Twins, compiling a 1.59 ERA in the final two months of last season and leading the Majors with an 0.60 mark this year. He has given up just one run in three 2020 starts and needed just 71 pitches to spin six shutout innings against the Pirates on Wednesday.
4. Ryan Castellani, RHP, Rockies (No. 18)
Castellani bounced back from the worst season of his career in 2019 (8.31 ERA in Triple-A) to make his big league debut Saturday -- and what a debut it was. He retired the first 12 Mariners in order before hitting a batter and walking another before exiting in the fifth inning.
5. Dustin May, RHP, Dodgers (graduated from Top 30)
May graduated from MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list (he had ranked No. 25) in style, striking out eight while allowing just two runs in six innings to beat the Padres on Tuesday. He also threw one of the nastiest two-seamers you'll ever see and now features a 2.63 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings as the Dodgers improved to 3-0 in his starts this summer.
6. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Athletics (No. 1/MLB No. 13)
The lone Top 100 Prospect on this list, Luzardo has been slowed by injuries but finally earned his first big league victory on Sunday with 5 2/3 strong innings agains the Astros. He also blanked the Rangers for five innings on Tuesday and owns a 2.60 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 17 1/3 frames this year.
7. Anthony Kay, LHP, Blue Jays (No. 11)
Part of the Marcus Stroman trade with the Mets last summer, Kay produced two scoreless outings in relief last week, including blanking the Red Sox for 3 1/3 innings on Saturday for his first victory of the season. He has permitted just one run and six baserunners while striking out eight in as many innings this year, which could prompt the Jays to give him a look in the rotation in the near future.
8. Andy Young, INF, Diamondbacks (No. 17)
Young got the first eight at-bats of his big league career last week and he made the most of them. He collected three hits, including a double in his initial plate appearance on Tuesday and a homer off Top 100 Prospect Luis Patiño of the Padres on Sunday.
9. Matt Foster, RHP, White Sox (No. 28)
A 20th-round pick promoted to the Majors for the first time on July 29, Foster quickly has established himself as one of the more reliable arms in Chicago's bullpen. He has yet to allow a run in four appearances, including three last week in which he totaled 4 2/3 innings and struck out eight.
10. Jonathan Hernandez, RHP, Rangers (No. 26)
The son of former big leaguer Fernando Hernandez, Jonathan looked like a potential mid-rotation starter earlier in his pro career but seems to have found his niche as a reliever. He struck out six in four scoreless innings over three appearances last week and now sports a 2.00 ERA with 14 whiffs in nine frames this year.