Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Saturday, February 9, 2013

What to Expect from Luis Cruz in 2013

(photo by Jon Soo Hoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)
One of the Dodgers biggest surprises in 2012 was the emergence of Luis Cruz as a clutch hitter in the Dodger lineup.  A journeyman minor leaguer, Cruz was an average AAA player, with a career batting average of .261 and a poor on base percentage (.296) over nine minor league seasons dating back to 2001.
When Cruz was called up to the Dodgers on July 2nd, it would be safe to say that not much was expected from him.  Though his numbers were good in Albuquerque, it was still Albuquerque after all.  He was a 28 year minor leaguer with some major league experience.  Perhaps he could contribute a little bit, at least until the trade deadline or when Dee Gordon’s thumb injury healed up.

What Cruz did wasn’t anything that anybody expected.  Except for Luis himself that is.  Starting off on a 7 for 19 tear, within three weeks chants of “Cruuuuuz” greeted him as he stepped to the plate a Dodger Stadium.  He had become a fan favorite.

San Francisco Giants broadcaster  Mike Krukow spoke of Cruz’s success when the Dodgers came into San Francisco and swept the Giants in late July, saying he doubted that he’d be able to keep it up.  He was, after all,  an unknown commodity and career minor leaguer with a .260 average.  He said that the league would get him the second time around.  He had never thrived in his few stints in the majors the last few years, having hit .221 in 154 lifetime plate appearances with the Pirates and Brewers.

What wasn’t known was that Cruz had made some remarkable adjustments during the 2011 off season.  He was working hard with his dad in Mexico, Luis Cruz Sr., a well known and respected Mexican League outfielder who has Mexican League Hall of Fame candidate credentials, (.297 lifetime average with 210 homers).  That he was hitting with some pop and his aggressive approach at the plate was getting some success.  He  turned some heads by going out and hitting .406 in the Mexican Winter League with the Mexico City Red Devils.

In Action with Mexico City, 2011 

Luis signed with the Dodgers in November 2011 during that Winter League season to a minor league pact, believing that he had a real legitimate shot at cracking the opening day roster with the big club.  That was until Ned Colletti signed Jerry Hairston Jr., and Adam Kennedy a few days later.

He had just turned down a lucrative offer from a Japanese League team.  He also passed on contract offers from the Marlins and the Giants.  “The Dodgers looked like the best option for me,” he said to Anthony Witrado of The Sporting News, when he was interviewed this past August.  Had Kennedy and Hairston been signed first, there is a pretty good chance that Cruz wouldn’t have been a Dodger.  He may have actually been patrolling the infield in San Francisco instead.

Out of Spring Training, due to the annual game of roster slot numbers, Cruz was sent back to AAA Albuquerque and there he went and simply played very good baseball.  With a stat line of .318 BA, .348 OBP, .877 OPS, 8 homers, 46 RBI in 289 at bats.  The Cruz call up was well earned and overdue after the Dodgers offensive woes were historically bad in late June.

By the time Dee Gordon recovered from injury, Hanley Ramirez had already come over to the Dodgers via trade.  By then Cruz had played himself into the starting lineup for good.  He proved consistent during his entire three months as a Dodger and now enters the 2013 season as a favorite to start at third base.

What to expect in 2013

Cruz returned to Mexico a hero this off season, being recognized in his hometown in Sonora with a day in his honor.   He then went out and played a lackluster three weeks in the Mexican League.  Playing third base for the Tomateros de Culiacan, Luis collected 75 at bats and hit .173 with no homers, 3 RBI and OPS in the .300’s.   Could it be fatigue from too much baseball over 12-14 months or is it a sign of things to come.

Never a player that works counts and walks much.  Cruz is what he is.  A free swinging hitter that often takes hacks on the first pitch.  Those saber metric followers of the game aren't impressed with him.  Those fans that look for intangibles love a player like Cruz.  He catches the ball well.  He makes the defensive web gems.  His aggressive approach was successful last season.  There are those that believe Cruz is possibly a 20 home run guy with the opportunity of playing a full season of major league action.

(photo by Tony Medina/Getty Images)

Recent blog sites show Cruz working with Mark McGwire and Adrian Gonzalez this off season.  Enthusiasm is rampant with Dodger hitters believing that McGwire will make a difference to the team this year.  Hopefully that is true.  Truth is though, third base is still the biggest question mark on this club for position players and it's because history has shown that players like Cruz don't simply emerge out of nowhere into their 10th season of professional ball.  It's a great story that he did.  Can he keep it up?  That's the big question.


  1. Mark, as with others, I don't know what to expect with Luis this year. His certainly was a feel good story in 2012 - well earned.

    Although it is unusual to emerge at his age, maybe he has broken through with his father's help. He is a gritty player, the kind we all love. I hope it wasn't a mirage. We seem to be comfortable with AJ Ellis although AJ had better minor league stats than Luis.

    In any event. I don't think Scott Rolen is a solution. Scott can't play as an every day 3B anymore.

  2. Not sure how I got Mark in there. Probably thinking of Mark Ellis.

  3. Harold, There is concern with the regression Luis suffered in the Mexican League this winter, but it's an extremely small sample size. I didn't address that I think Cruz should be starting at SS and not 3B, as he and Hanley should swap positions. Crossing my fingers that Cruz is just a late bloomer and that 2012 was the start of a string of excellent seasons to come.