Padres prospect scouting report: Julio Cruceta

As a twenty year old in Idaho Falls, Julio Cruceta was overmatched at the plate and on the field. An offseason of refinement brought him to Arizona where he played for the Peoria Padres in the Rookie League. His hitting turned a significant corner on the way over.

Through the first half of the 2004 season, Julio Cruceta hit .361, placing him in the top three in the league at the time. He had 14 of his 22 RBI's during that span. That was while the games were still be played during the day. The games moved to night on July 27 and Cruceta maintained his hot pace – just not that hot.

He began the season with a six game hitting streak and just never looked back. His season ended with him hitting .318. He added seven doubles and five triples with no home runs. He also stole nine bases while getting caught five times.

During one two game stretch late in the year, Cruceta was hit by four pitches in two games. That accounted for two-thirds of his season total.

Cruceta managed to hit just .234 with Idaho Falls the year before. He struck out about the same each year and does not draw many walks. Luckily he hit well enough for the lack of walks to be overlooked this year. That will have to be addressed as he moves up the ladder.

Cruceta, a right-handed hitter out of the Dominican Republic, is still growing into his body at 21. At 6-foot-1, he is beginning to fill out and become less lanky. With it should come an increase in power. While he hasn't hit a homer in two years within the Padres system, he could become a version of Luis Cruz with his natural gap power.

So what is the problem with this hot hitting youngster and why wasn't he moved up to Eugene to get a taste of what crowds look like during the final week's of the year?

It is his defense. Julio Cruceta is a man without a position. After playing third base in Idaho Falls he was all over the field this year and was used mainly as a designated hitter.

"He is a guy – his weakness is defense," Tye Waller, the Padres' Director of Player Development, said. "That team (in Eugene) was struggling already up there and we didn't want to make the defense weaker. We sought guys who could help and benefit at the same time.

"Cruceta still has a lot of work to do. We had him as a DH, outfield, third baseman and he played some second the year before. We still got a good amount with his arm and his defense."

The young man will get plenty of time this offseason to improve on his defense and come back next year looking to move up. He has proven his bat is capable but until his defense catches up – he will be left behind.

The Padres place a lot of emphasis on defense and hold firm to the belief that defense and pitching wins Championships. Unless the bat is that good, a glove is sorely needed.

By all indications, Cruceta will not take part in Instructional League. That could have helped him immensely. As he is targeted for short-season ball again next year his absence will not be as big a blow.


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