Why the Diss on Luis Cruz?

Over the past two weeks, I have read a number of posts from some of my blogging colleagues in which the focus has been on Luis Cruz not being the answer as the Dodgers everyday third baseman for 2013.

What gives?

Luis Cruz was nothing short of sensational in his 78 games in 2012. He committed only 2 errors in 123 chances (.984 FPCT) in 51 games at third base, 2 errors in 104 chances in 24 games at shortstop (.981 FPCT) and zero errors in the two games that he played at second base (1.000 FPCT). And while these may not be Gold Glove numbers and the sample size somewhat small, they are well above average numbers at each of these three very difficult defensive positions.

And then there are his offensive numbers. Granted his OBP and SLG numbers are on the low side (.322 and .431 respectively), but his .297 batting average (84 for 283) is an attention-getter – or at least it should be. Heck, he even hit 6 home runs in his 283 at bats in 2012. That’s one every 47.1 at bats, which blows the doors off of the guy who was supposed to be the Dodgers best offensive third baseman – Juan Uribe with one every 81 at bats. Are these Silver Slugger numbers? Of course not; but they are definitely middle-of-the-pack numbers for an everyday MLB third baseman, with a batting average that is near the top of the scale.

Although Cruz played in only 78 games in 2012, his .297 batting average was second best on the team and his 40 RBIs and 6 home runs 6th and 7th best respectively. (Photo credit - Garrett Nichols)

Although Cruz played in only 78 games in 2012, his .297 batting average was second best on the team and his 40 RBIs and 6 home runs 6th and 7th best respectively. (Photo credit – Garrett Nichols)

One of the main criticisms that Luis Cruz is getting (and in my opinion is unwarranted) is that he is too aggressive at the plate and doesn’t walk enough, thus his low OBP; but he usually makes contact with the ball, having struck out only 34 times in 296 plate appearances, which is one in every 8.7 PA – again, not great, but not all that bad either. Even Adrian Beltre struck out every 7.97 PA and the pathetic Uribe every 4.8 PA. But what I think is being overlooked with Cruz’s low walk numbers (once every 32.88 PA) is that the 28-year-old Sonora, Mexico native is trying to make the very best out of his brief time in the Big Leagues and he has to be aggressive at the plate to show that he can make contact and help his team – which he did quite well during 2012. In fact, his 40 RBIs were the 6th best on the team in less than half of the 2012 season.

Being more patient at the plate comes with more experience, more plate appearances and more one-on-one coaching, which he is receiving from his father (who ironically had a career .297 batting average in 16 years in the Mexican League) and will receive from Dodgers new hitting coach Mark McGwire.

In my opinion the argument that the Dodgers should pursue Adrian Beltre is ludicrous and is nothing more than a grasp at nostalgia. Beltre is entering the third year of a 5-year/$80 million contract with the Texas Rangers (with an option for a 6th year). He is owed $16 million in 2013, $17 million in 2014, $18 million in 2015, with a $16 million voidable option in 2016. That’s $50 million still owed to him over the next three seasons not including the option year. (Imagine what that would do to the Dodgers already huge payroll, not to mention what it would cost them in prospects and current roster players). And while no one can or will dispute the fact that Beltre is a very good power-hitter (he has averaged 23 home runs per season during his 15-year  MLB career) or that he is an excellent defensive third baseman, at 33 years old he is definitely past his prime and his numbers will undoubtedly begin to decline, while Luis Cruz’s numbers will most likely improve.

Adrian Beltre is still exciting to watch, but he will soon be 34 years old and his numbers are most likely going to start to decline. (Photo credit - Ron Jenkins).

Adrian Beltre is still exciting to watch, but he will soon be 34 years old and his offensive numbers will most likely begin to decline. (Photo credit – Ron Jenkins).

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Adrian Beltre and will never forget his incredible MLB-leading 48 home runs during the 2004 season, but I will also never forget that he was pretty much a second-half hitter and struggled year after year during the first half of the season.

Now if we were talking about the Dodgers going after Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman or even David Wright, I would probably have an open ear, but each of these All-Star third basemen (who are considerably younger than Beltre) are locked up with enormous contracts that make them basically untouchable – and for a very long time. Granted, there may be several other young third basemen on the rise and probably several more third base prospects out there (Nick Castellanos in the Tigers system comes to mind, but it would take a king’s ransom to acquire him), but why not give Luis Cruz the benefit of the doubt – at least for one full season?

Tigers third base prospect Nick Castellanos is ranked number 10 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospect list. Castellanos is seen here absolutely crushing a game-winning home run during this year's Arizona Fall League. (Photo credit - Ron Cervenka)

Tigers third base prospect Nick Castellanos is ranked number 10 on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect list. Castellanos is seen here absolutely crushing a game-winning home run during this year’s Arizona Fall League. (Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

And while Dodgers GM Ned Colletti will undoubtedly keep an eye open in the event that a better third base option pops up on the radar, even he has confidence in Luis Cruz as the Dodgers everyday third baseman. When asked early in the off-season if Cruz is the likely candidate to be the Dodgers Opening Day third baseman, Colletti answered “Ya, and we’ll let spring training determine and the early part of the season determine if we’re accurate or not…”

So rather than dissing (and dismissing) Luis Cruz as a viable option as the Dodgers everyday third baseman in 2013, why not embrace him and support him and at least give him an opportunity to prove that what we witnessed him do in the second half of 2012 was not a fluke, but instead a preview of what’s to come?

I’m good with Luis Cruz. How about you?

 

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12 Responses to “Why the Diss on Luis Cruz?”

  1. Bluenose Dodger says:

    I’m certainly good with Cruz. I mention the other guys, including Beltre, as possibilities if Andre is traded. I just can’t see him traded for an outfielder. Since it’s not our money, I wasn’t concerned about Beltre’s money knowing it was less than owed to Andre.

  2. OldBrooklynFan says:

    I agree that we should give Cruz a full season to see if he can continue to hit the way he did last season. Let’s see if pitchers have adjusted to him and see if he can re-adjust to them if they have.
    Although things change quite often, it looks like Hanley Ramirez is the choice at shortstop and unless Uribe will pull a miracle, Cruz should be our boy ar 3rd.

  3. KSparkuhl says:

    Harold, you getting enough air up there?

    Most are hoping that Cruz isn’t a “one-hit wonder”. Statistics say he might be. But this wasn’t just your average young player who had a very good season. This was a man who played many seasons in the minors and seized an opportunity with the big club… and he acted like he owned his position. Cruz is no kid; with life experience under his belt, he decided he liked the view from the big leagues, and he’s going to stay until they rip the job from him. I like his moxy. This sounds to me like a man who will never become complacent with being a major leaguer and will work hard to remain there.

  4. CRANBROOK MIKE says:

    I personally love the job he did. No complaints here!

  5. thinkblue55 says:

    I’m all for giving Cruuuuuuuuz a chance. I was as the game where he hit the game tying double in the bottom of the 9th against the Cards when we were down to our last out and the game where he hit the go ahead homer in the 6th on 9/4 against the Padres (the game the above photo of Cruz was taken at). That was a game when our will was pretty broken and no one seemed to have an answer as to why nothing was going right for this team. I told several people all this team needed was a spark, a moment, to light a fire under their asses. That was it. That homerun ignited that crowd and the team. I hadn’t been in the Ravine and heard a crowd with that much life since Manny’s bobblehead Grandslam. I was lucky enough to be in the Dugout Club for that moment and standing directly beside the Dodger dugout. I looked in and snapped some shots of the players reacting to it after he came back in and you’d think it was a walkoff. They mobbed him in there and he delivered the first curtain call of his career. The energy just changed from then on.

    They never relinquished the lead and won that night as well as the previously mentioned game tying double game. That was another game where the energy was lacking and hope seemed lost. Motte was on the mound and even though we had the tying run on with 2 outs it looked bleak. Cruz came up and he delivered. He didn’t just place a base hit through the hole, he laced a shot to right center that off the bat felt like it might go out but then looked like it would be caught…but it wasn’t, it burned the CF and as soon as it hit the ground the crowd exploded and when the dust settled not only was the game tied but the winning run was now standing at second. The most excited man in the park? Luis Cruz. He was screaming and did the two handed finger guns into the dugout. He was then pulled for a pinch runner and as he can in the dugout he was given a standing ovation. The next at bat Juan Rivera singled in Herrera to win the game and who was right there in the dog pile? Who got his jersey torn off by Hanley? Who had a post game interview and was given a Gatorade bath and shot by the Harrangatang? Not only are these moments and actions what you find in a starting player but go into the team store or on Dodgers.com and you will find his jersey for sale. You will see kids and adults alike walking through the Ravine next year wearing #47 Cruuuuuz jerseys. What Cruz gave us last season was something not likely to be duplicated by a call up anytime soon…and that’s because he’s more than that.

    As far as in concerned its his job to lose. Third base is supposed to be a power position but with a full season and a new mind set and hitting coach in front of him he can improve on his offensive numbers. Unless he tanks in ST I look forward to seeing Conchito Cruz patrolling the hot corner in Dodger Blue next season and beyond.

  6. Evan Bladh says:

    Cruz was magical last season. A spark plug that had the kind of year that made us neglect to notice his free-swinging ways and inability to take a walk. I’m all for giving him another shot because we all know that Uribe is the alternative. If he falters, there’s always the trade deadline that will loom large. Luis is the perfect L.A. fit, being from Mexico. A marketing dream to the club, so I’m quite sure that Management is willing to give him another shot, because he’ll put fans in the seats. With Adrian Gonzalez and Luis Cruz at the corners, the Mexican tandem plays well in Los Angeles, and that’s a fact.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      Excellent point, Evan.

      I know that it doesn’t work this way, but when you consider that Luis played in 78 games and had 6 home runs and 40 RBIs, you have to wonder what he would have done in 162 games.

  7. lindav says:

    I, too, am agreeing. 55 said it best – it’s his position to lose. He generated great excitement with the fans and in the dugout. I hope he materializes into a great 3rd baseman.

  8. MFGRREP says:

    Someone needs to take Ned’s phone away and let spring training dictate what happens to Cruz.

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