Since it is the offseason and there is plenty of time to look back at all of our young and not so young prospects, this is a great time to look at some prospects individually and in depth. First on the docket is the hot name in the Cards organization from the Arizona Fall League, Tony Cruz.
Tony Cruz was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 26th round of the 2007 MLB draft. He started his career at short season ball bouncing from the GCL to Johnson City to Batavia with 7 games or less at each spot before playing the bulk of the season at Quad Cities. He was drafted as a third baseman and did not start playing as a catcher until the next season, even though he had previous amateur experience at catcher.
In 49 games in Quad Cities, Tony Cruz’s wOBA was .364, but he struck out more than he walked and hit a too healthy percentage (50%) of batted balls on the ground. Never the less, that’s a good year for a partial season right after being drafted and Cruz was moved up to Palm Beach the next year.
The rest of Tony Cruz’s career after the jump!
Cruz was a jack of all trades for his hometown Palm Beach in 2008, playing catcher, third base and first base. He played the whole year for Palm Beach and continued on his strong start to his professional career. He had a wOBA of .339, but started to see some trouble with the strikeout with 50 Ks to only 19 walks on the year. (That’s 14.2% and 5% for those counting at home.) In his 43 games at catcher, he allowed 40 (40!) stolen bases and caught only 15 runners for a 27% rate. That is not very good, but this was his first season switching to catcher as a professional and he was a work in progress. He still was moved up to Springfield the next season.
The 2009 season in Springfield was Tony Cruz’s worst as a professional ballplayer. He got more work at catcher and less at first and third. He threw out more runners than he allowed to steal for a 53% catch rate, but he offense went downhill. His average dropped to .220 and his SLG dropped to .366 the lowest rate of his career. His K% went way up to 21%. And obviously, his wOBA dropped as well to .301. He was way below average with the bat, which was especially surprising due to his hitting success over the previous two seasons. A BABIP of .252 for the season, which is very low for AA certainly contributed to his poor season. He also had an ISO of .146 for the year that was consistent with his career levels, so the power was still there. He was still pushed back to the Palm Beach Cardinals to start out 2010.
The move back to his hometown Palm Beach reinvigorated Cruz who was now only playing catcher for the Cardinals. He had a wOBA of .364 in 43 games. His K% was still high at 18.2%, but it was helped by a strong walk % of 9.4%. His slugging still wasn’t up to his usually standards as it stayed just below 400 at .398. Cruz was showing similar contact to 2009, but a better BABIP (.336), better patience at the plate and improved catcher play (throwing out 47% of runners) helped Cruz earn a June promotion back to Springfield.
Cruz showed Springfield exactly what they were missing as his power returned in glorious fashion with at .477 SLG and a .188 ISO. In 40 games, he posted a best of his career wOBA of .367. He was also great behind the plate. He allowed only 3 passed balls in 30 games behind the plate and caught 19 runners, only allowing 12 to steal for a gaudy 61% rate. His walk percentage was up over 10% for his time in Springfield, but he was still dogged by the strikeouts, getting struck out 20.1% of his plate appearances. But, with the power and the walks, the strikeouts are much less of a concern. That stellar play earned Tony Cruz a promotion to Memphis in September and presumably an invitation to the Arizona Fall League.
Cruz only had 15 plate appearances in Memphis, so I won’t bore you with the small sample size, but in 69 at-bats in Arizona, he’s got an OPS of .847, which is better than his career high. That is bumped up by an increase in his average. He’s hitting .319 in Arizona when he hasn’t hit above 300 in any full minor league season. Has he hit .319 over 69 at-bats sometime in the past, probably, but the number is still surprising considering his career rates.
We have talked in the past about where Tony Cruz will end up in 2011 and beyond, so I won’t go over my same work again. But, needless to say, a bounce back 2010 and a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League have put Cruz squarely on the Cardinals radar and not just the minor league staff.