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  • Will the Twins Regret Leaving Steven Cruz Unprotected?


    Cody Christie

    Minnesota protected multiple players before the Rule 5 deadline, but only some players can make the cut. Would losing Steven Cruz come back to haunt the Twins?

    Image courtesy of Ed Bailey, Wichita Wind Surge

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    The 2022 Rule 5 Draft will take place on Wednesday, December 7, as part of the Winter Meetings in San Diego. It will be the first Rule 5 Draft in two years since last year's draft was canceled due to lockout. It also marks the first Rule 5 Draft since rosters expanded to 26 players. This may allow teams the roster flexibility to carry an extra player for the entire season, especially a relief pitcher that has traditionally been easier to hide.  

    In the last Rule 5 Draft, the Twins lost Akil Baddoo and Tyler Wells, who have each had promising starts to their big-league careers. Baddoo posted a 2.0 WAR season as a rookie before struggling in his sophomore campaign. Wells shifted to a starting role for an improving Orioles squad looking to get back into contention. Will Steven Cruz follow a similar path as Baddoo and Wells?

    Minnesota initially signed Cruz as an international free agent in March 2017 for $30,000. His professional debut came in the Dominican Summer League, where he posted a 3.68 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP in 16 appearances. He moved stateside in 2018 and saw his strikeout rate jump from 8.0 K/9 to 11.4 K/9 with the GCL Twins. In 2019, he improved with a sub-3.00 ERA and 48 strikeouts across 31 innings for Elizabethton. His walk rate continued to be higher than teams want from a reliever, but he was showcasing some strong strikeout ability. 

    Cruz's first taste of full-season affiliates had to wait until 2021 after the 2020 season was canceled. All but three of his appearances came at Low-A, where he was slightly older than the average age of the competition. In 50 innings, he posted a 4.32 ERA with a 1.36 WHIP and 80 strikeouts. His 14.4 K/9 was a career-high, and his walk rate dropped from 6.7 BB/9 to 5.9 BB/9. He was making improvements, and his stuff was becoming hard to ignore. 

    Minnesota was aggressive with Cruz in 2022 by sending him to Double-A with only two appearances above Low-A on his resume. He pitched the entire season out of Wichita's bullpen with 46 appearances. In 56 innings, he compiled a 5.14 ERA with a 1.59 WHIP and a 72-to-35 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His walk rate dropped for the second consecutive season, and he has a 12.1 K/9 for his professional career. 

    He proved he could routinely hit triple-digits with his fastball, and his slider is a solid secondary offering. MLB.com ranks Cruz as the organization's 27th-best prospect with a 75-grade fastball and a 50-grade slider. Even though he is a righty, he held lefties to a .640 OPS with 30 strikeouts in 89 at-bats. Nearly 85% of his plate appearances came against older batters because it was the first time in his career that he was significantly younger than the average age of the competition. 

    There are no guarantees that Cruz will be selected in next week's Rule 5 Draft, but elite fastball and strikeout totals give him a chance. Plenty of non-contending teams across baseball can take flyers on relievers like Cruz that can pay big dividends down the road. Do you think the Twins will regret leaving Cruz unprotected? What can his ceiling be at the big-league level? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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    We have had very few in house pitchers that ever really amount to much. Berrios is the only one that really amounted to much. Ryan hasn't really been thru the system. Duran has been fantastic & Jax has been good in the pen. Ober & reject Wells hasn't been bad. Varland & SWR shows promise but there's a lot that have came & gone.

    Cruz might find some success in the pen. My feel is there won't be a lot of activity in the draft this year & Cruz will stay put, But who knows, Legumina found a home maybe Cruz will too. I'm more concerned with Lawyerson being taken

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    I can see another team taking him but I don't think he will stick.  As noted by others the control just isn't there and while he can hit triple digits he can't seem to control his stuff and he has tendency to groove fastballs to stay in the strike zone which tend to fall for hits.  So between giving up hits at about one per innings plus all the walks he seems like a long shot to go in Rule V to me.

    A team could take flyer to see if they can "fix" anything but unless he makes some significant improvements I don't see him in the majors now and maybe never.  

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    Some team will have to be willing to lose games by big margins if they select him. He will only be used in mop up situations and, if he doesn't have control that day, it is going to be a walk fest followed by a grand slam. He will have his good days as well but will lose confidence and basically lose one year of pitching work because he will probably pitch so little.

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    59 minutes ago, specialiststeve said:

    Okay ... who do you take off the 40 to put Cruz on? 

    Steve asked the most important question that always is missing in these conversations.  To add Cruz they would need to either release someone on the roster or not add one of the four they added.  Suspect they would definitely lose that person, say Julien, and it could really come back to bite them.

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    Based on his FB someone will take him most likely if they can stash him in pen for year.  Will they regret it, maybe, but for next year I doubt it.  He has heat, but is not dominate so far.  Heat at MLB will not get you far if you do not have location or movement, you will just get hit hard. 

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    The front office has never gave an inclination that they have ever regretted any moves they made ...

    They don't care if the fans regret their decision ...

    Unlike Terry Ryan who admitted he made a mistake with big papi ...

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    On 12/5/2022 at 6:34 PM, Blyleven2011 said:

    The front office has never gave an inclination that they have ever regretted any moves they made ...

    They don't care if the fans regret their decision ...

    Unlike Terry Ryan who admitted he made a mistake with big papi ...

    What player that the current front office let go has had any sort of career? Trades are a different matter

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