A year after hitting just .234 with Fort Wayne, yet still being named to the top twenty prospects list at MadFriars.com, Cruz showed he did, in fact, have a bat that had some juice.
Take away the sour month of June and Cruz was a .290 hitter on the year. But June counts, a month where he hit .224 (his only month below .274) and his season average was finalized at .278.
With three hitting streaks of nine games or more, Cruz proved he could do it at the plate, despite playing against prospects that bested him in age.
The shortstop doesn't strike out a ton, once every 9.2 at bats, but he walks even less, once every 22.2 plate appearances.
Patience is something that is tough to teach a twenty year old prospect but it is a trait that will serve him well down the road. Cruz had 45 extra base hits, 32 of those were doubles, and will only grow stronger as he matures into his body. Adding patience at the plate to a stronger physique will give him more advantages and potentially raise his average even higher as he becomes more selective at the pitches he swings at.
One area that his aggressiveness paid off was when runners were in scoring position. Having runners on creates a favorable matchup for a hitter. The pitcher wants to throw strikes and get out of the inning and Cruz, with his penchant for putting the ball in play, batted .306 with men in scoring position and his 76 RBI's on the year were good for second highest on the team.
At twenty, he has a chance to improve on a lot of those numbers.
The biggest area that needs improvement is in the field. Cruz saw action in 124 games and committed 42 errors, with most of those coming at shortstop (he did play six games at third base). That total led the California League and only three players besides Cruz topped 30 errors on the year.
That is a lot of errors.
"A lot of errors, you are right," Tye Waller, the Padres' Director of Player Development said. "A lot of flash. Guys like Luis Cruz – if you can get that guy to understand that a routine play has to be routine. I watch guys like Luis Lopez and Jose Valentin make seventy errors in A-ball, and they both ended up being pretty good big leaguers."
Waller pinpointed the problem with ease. Cruz is looking to make that grandiose play to wow the crowd, even on the one hopper that will hit him in the chest. That forces him into precarious positions and errant throws.
As Waller also indicated, there is reason for optimism.
"They can get better and it is more mental and more focus. At twenty years old – in the Cal League – there is a good chance he will get better."
He better. Playing a premier position like shortstop requires good work in the field. The Padres emphasis and priority on fielding makes it a must.
Denis Savage can be reached at email@example.com
Padres scouting report: Luis Cruz
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