Selected 2009 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Dustin Mattison (30): Still the team record holder for the biggest bonus ever given an international signing, De La Cruz started off slowly but closed out the season in solid fashion. Entering the month of August with a batting average only slightly above .100, the 17-year-old hit .298/.327/.372 during the season's final month. During that stretch, he increased his line drive rate to 13%.
Two glaring areas of need are his walk and strikeout rates. The Dominican native walked in less than six percent of his plate appearances while striking out close to 36% of the time. Hopefully, he will improve on these areas of his game as he matures. Reports are that De La Cruz continued to improve at the hot corner, the position the Cardinals hope he stays to increase his value.
With an outlandishly productive spring, it would not be out of the realm of possibilities to see him start the season at the Quad Cities. But an assignment in extended spring training followed by another season in rookie ball seems much more realistic.
Message board community (36): Roberto De La Cruz didn't register quite as well with the community, coming in at 36. That might well highlight a preference for stats on the part of the community, rather than tools. And the stats weren't pretty. In the GCL, he posted a .267 OBP and .279 SLG. He fanned 59 times in 165 AB's. He was 0-for-3 in steal attempts. To my eye, there was one promising line. In August, he posted a .699 OPS, batting .298 with seven doubles. But the strikeout rate was about the same.
OK, there's one other very encouraging stat, 17. That was his age during the season. He wasn't the youngest on the team, with Anthony Garcia and Cesar Valera clocking in two and four months younger, respectively, but he was awfully close. And another: 6-foot-2, 180. He should fill out, and that bodes well for his power. He should be able to play third base. The scouts liked him well enough to give him a big bonus. The kid is raw, but the age and scouting reports give good reason for keeping an eye on him for his potential upside. - Gagliano
Brian Walton (18): Leading the minor league system in BA bodes well for De La Cruz' future. No, I surely don't mean batting average, given his .224 mark in 2009. I am talking about bank account, a vote that still carries weight for a young man of 17.
Playing in the Gulf Coast League would be a good accomplishment except for the fact organizational officials set expectations higher – too high in hindsight, at least for 2009. I am not going to get down on De La Cruz, whose best attributes are his hitting tools, but clearly ranking him higher than last year, in my top 20, demonstrates a couple of things. One, a lack of better alternatives in the system along with a dose of the same optimism that I am jabbing the Cardinals for having displayed previously.
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