Position: Left-handed Pitcher
De La Cruz was originally signed by the Cleveland Indians in 2004 and made his Stateside debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2006 with a 10.98 ERA in 19 2/3 innings. He returned to the GCL briefly in 2007 before moving on to the New York-Penn League where he posted a 3.98 ERA in 12 starts for Mahoning Valley.
Things really came together for De La Cruz in 2008 as he blew through the Low-A South Atlantic League with a 1.69 ERA and better than a strikeout per inning in 18 starts. He also pitched at High-A and Double-A in 2008, though he did struggle against older competition at just 19-years old.
Between 2009, 2010 and 2011, De La Cruz battled a litany of arm injuries, rarely showing the potential he once showed early in his career.
Early in spring training this year the Indians traded De La Cruz to the Texas Rangers for a player to be named later (Davis Stoneburner) and he was traded back to the Indians less than a month later in exchange for cash considerations.
Just a few days later the Indians designated De La Cruz for assignment and the Tigers claimed him off waivers, giving him a spot on the 40-man roster and assigning him to Double-A Erie.
Not much has changed with De La Cruz's scouting report despite seven years of professional experience. He is a long, lanky guy with tons of arms and legs that fly at the hitter. He has yet to consistently harness his body throughout his delivery and the overall quality of his stuff and strike throwing ability suffers as a result.
He features a solid four-pitch mix that starts with the foundation of an average fastball. He can consistently sit 89-91 mph with a deceptive delivery because of his length. With Erie this spring he has shown velocity as high as 93 mph when he reaches back for more.
De La Cruz's curveball will flash plus potential and he is willing to throw it in any count. His slider is a solid third pitch, but not nearly as good as his firmer curveball that has more bat missing potential.
The coaching staff in Erie has been trying to convince De La Cruz to throw his change-up with more regularity, but the pitch remains well below-average and isn't even really a show-me pitch at this time.
De La Cruz has an idea of how to pitch and set up hitters. He will pitch backwards at times, using his mix of breaking balls to get ahead in the count before coming back with the fastball. He has a habit of nibbling at times and needs to consistently attack hitters with more regularity.
The biggest long term issue has been consistency for De La Cruz. From his mechanics to the quality of his secondary pitches, his overall consistency continues to hold him back from reaching his potential.
There are still a handful of scouts that believe De La Cruz could be a back-end starter in the big leagues. He is still only 23-years old and taller, lanky pitchers can require more time to fully develop and reach their ceiling.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP WHIP AA
De La Cruz has battled elbow and shoulder injuries throughout his career, missing significant time along the way. His health problems have kept him from accumulating the innings he needs to continue his development.
There are several people in the Tigers organization that were very excited to add De La Cruz to the system in March. While he does not have significant potential, he could help in the back of the rotation over the next couple of years.
De La Cruz should spend the bulk of the year with Double-A Erie and could see some time in Triple-A before the season is complete. Given that he is already on the 40-man roster, his first big league chance could come at any time.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor. Be sure to follow him on twitter @TigsTownMark.