Devin Williams deserves congratulations for winning the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year. He was absolutely phenomenal this season, having only given up one run the entire season. However, a pitcher does not deserve to win unless there is not a worthy enough position player. The same applies to the MVP, which is why there is a Cy Young award handed out each year. This year, there was a position player that was worthy, and it was Cronenworth.
The other finalist, Alec Bohm, had a great season with the Philadelphia Phillies. Bohm was consistently able to step up in huge situations including with runners in scoring position, but he only played 44 of the 60 games on a team that missed the postseason. Both Williams and Cronenworth were on squads that made it to October.
Cronenworth was traded to the Padres last winter, but he wasn’t the headliner in that deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. Tommy Pham was the star player that the Padres acquired last offseason. There was uncertainty as to whether Cronenworth was even going to be on the roster and if he was, the reason would be that he could both pitch and hit. He ended up making the roster and never touched the mound. Instead, he was arguably the team’s most valuable player other than superstar infielders Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr.
The 26-year-old did not start on Opening Day, but teammate Eric Hosmer was dealing with sickness and an injury early in the season. That’s when Cronenworth got his break. He was playing Gold Glove-caliber first base and was an impossible out at the bottom of Jayce Tingler‘s lineup, beginning to slowly rise in the batting order. Eventually, he was hitting right behind former Rookie of the Year Wil Myers in the NLDS.
He hit .285 on the season with an OPS of .831, playing in 54 of San Diego’s 60 games. Cronenworth was worth 1.4 Wins Above Replacement, which was higher than Williams’ WAR for the season. While there is no concrete definition of what the Rookie of the Year is, the award should be given to the first-year player that most often contributed to their team winning. Cronenworth fits that bill more so than Williams.
He was able to fill in for his All-Star teammate at first base when Hosmer was not able to take the field, and was so valuable offensively that he took Jurickson Profar‘s spot at second base once the first baseman returned. Even when Cronenworth did not get a hit, he still helped his team win defensively nearly every night the Padres played. Williams only pitched in 22 games, so for about two-thirds of the season he had no impact on Milwaukee winning.
Williams had a tremendous year in the bullpen, but Cronenworth checked all the boxes for being named Rookie of the Year… and he should have won.