6'4" 190 lbs DOB: 7/20/1988
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2009: Bowling Green Hot Rods
Acquired: Acquired: 2007 Draft, 30th Round, 905th Overall
Without the dazzling stuff of Matt Moore or the draft pedigree of Nick Barnese, Joseph Cruz flew under the radar in Bowling Green's rotation despite a very solid season.
In fact, his 2009 numbers with the Hot Rods are very close to the numbers he posted in 2008 with Princeton: His 1.39 WHIP was identical while his 10.1 H/9 and 2.4 BB/9 were as close as it gets(10.2 and 2.3 in 2008). His strikeout rate dropped from 10.3 to a still-impressive 9.1 and he allowed just five home runs in 98 innings. He did a decent job of keeping the ball on the ground, with a 1.26 GO/AO.
It's tough, then, to explain how his ERA rose from 3.17 with Princeton to 4.04 with Bowling Green. Despite the drop in strikeout rate, FanGraphs his 2009 FIP(fielding-independent pitching) at 2.70, lower than 2008's 3.00. FIP isn't an end-all stat, but it does indicate that was the victim of bad luck in terms of allowing runs. My best guess is that he was unlucky in terms of relief pitchers letting inherited runners score. Opponents hit over .050 points higher against Cruz when the bases were empty as opposed to having runners on. It should be noted that his BABIP the past two seasons has been .383 and .372. BABIP is generally a stat that fluctuates, but the 150 innings are basically all we have, and the BABIP has been (very) high twice. Definitely something to keep an eye on for 2010.
So while we can't isolate what exactly caused the inflated ERA, we can accept that he got unlucky in some regard(theories, again: inherited runners and BABIP, though the latter stat actually fell from 2008 while his ERA rose). Moving forward, then, Cruz might possibly be the most under-rated player in the system. He has a very live arm(92-93 with the fastball), he's projectable, and does a good job of throwing strikes. The higher hit rate may be because hitters could sit on his fastball, since his secondary stuff still needs work.
He'll be bumped to Charlotte's rotation for 2010, where again he'll begin the season in Moore and Barnese's shadow. But if his breaking pitches and change-up improve and he runs into some better luck, he should have no problem making a name for himself. If he develops even one out pitch besides his fastball, he could be a potential back-end reliever with his arm. As a starter, he's yet to crack the 100-innings mark, and given his slender frame, we'll have to see if he can maintain his stuff throughout a full season's worth of starts.