JUAN CRUZ
RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
Born: October 15, 1978
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 165
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Signed: International Free Agent, 1997 (Cubs)
How Acquired: Minor League Free Agent
High School: Bonao, Dominican Republic
Agent: Praver/Shapiro

WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES

Cruz long enticed both scouts and statheads with excellent stuff that’s usually led to high, sometimes extremely high, K rates, but he’s always struggled with the strike zone.  For most of his career, his fastball has sat in the 94-95 range, but over the last couple years his average velocity has dropped a little under 93.  He also throws a lot of sliders and a smaller number of changeups.  In 2009 he started throwing an 87-88 mph cutter.  According to PitchFX, he threw it as much as his fastball in 2011.  He got a lot of popups, possibly due to the pitch helping him jam hitters.  He’s never been a groundball pitcher, but starting with his time in Arizona he’s become a fairly extreme flyball pitcher.  His HR rates (0.93 HR/9 for his career) have tended to be a little high but not alarming.  He’s had only a mild platoon split over his career, with an opponents’ OPS of .752 against left-handed batters and .691 against right-handed batters.  The Pirates signed him to a minor league deal for 2012.

1998
R:  2-4-0, 6.10 ERA, 1.82 WHIP, 41.1 IP, 3.0 BB/9, 7.8 K/9

Cruz got hit very hard in his rookie league debut.

1999
A-:  5-6-0, 5.94 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 80.1 IP, 3.7 BB/9, 7.3 K/9

Cruz made 15 starts in short season ball and continued to struggle.

2000
A:  5-5-0, 3.28 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 96.0 IP, 5.6 BB/9, 9.9 K/9
A+:  3-0-0, 3.25 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 44.1 IP, 3.7 BB/9, 11.0 K/9

In full season ball, Cruz started pitching according to the patterns he would show as a major leaguer.  He fanned over a batter an inning at both class A levels and allowed only 105 hits in 140.1 IP, but had control problems.

2001
AA:  9-6-0, 4.01 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 121.1 IP, 4.5 BB/9, 10.2 K/9
MLB:  3-1-0, 3.22 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 44.2 IP, 3.4 BB/9, 7.9 K/9

Cruz was a little less effective in AA, but still fanned well over a batter an inning.  The Cubs called him up in August and he pitched well over eight starts, including fairly good control.

2002
MLB:  3-11-1, 3.98 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 97.1 IP, 5.5 BB/9, 7.5 K/9

Cruz spent the season with the Cubs, opening the season in their rotation but moving to the bullpen after nine starts.  He actually had a better ERA as a starter, 3.74 to 4.18, but his poor WHIP as a starter (1.64) showed the solid ERA wasn’t likely to last.  His K/BB ratio improved from 1.0 to 1.8 with the move.

2003
AAA:  4-0-0, 1.95 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 50.2 IP, 2.0 BB/9, 8.3 K/9
MLB:  2-7-0, 6.05 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 61.0 IP, 4.1 BB/9, 9.6 K/9

Opening in the Cubs’ bullpen, Cruz struggled through the end of May, getting hit uncharacteristically hard.  The Cubs sent him down at the start of June and he pitched very well in AAA.  He returned in late July for two good starts, missed much of August with an injury, then rejoined the Cubs’ rotation.  He pitched well in two starts and then got bombed in two.  After the season the Cubs largely gave him away to Atlanta.

2004
MLB:  6-2-0, 2.75 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 72.0 IP, 3.8 BB/9, 8.8 K/9

Cruz had his best season pitching in relief for the Braves, keeping the walks within reason and holding opponents to a career-best .657 OPS.  After the season, Atlanta included him in the Tim Hudson trade.

2005
AAA:  5-1-0, 2.40 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 75.0 IP, 3.4 BB/9, 10.8 K/9
MLB:  0-3-0, 7.44 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, 32.2 IP, 6.1 BB/9, 9.4 K/9

With the A’s, Cruz had a miserable year.  He got hit hard and his walk rated nearly doubled, although he continued to fan over a batter an inning.  Oakland sent him to AAA in mid-June and didn’t bring him back up until September.

2006
AAA:  0-0-0, 2.70 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 3.1 IP, 2.7 BB/9, 10.8 K/9
MLB:  5-6-0, 4.18 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 94.2 IP, 4.5 BB/9, 8.4 K/9

The A’s traded Cruz to the D’backs during spring training.  He opened the season pitching in relief, then moved to the rotation at the end of April.  He missed most of June with shoulder soreness, then returned to the rotation at the beginning of July.  Arizona moved him to relief in early August.  In 15 starts he posted a respectable 4.44 ERA while holding hitters to a .712 OPS.  As a reliever he had a 3.32 ERA and 1.29 WHIP.

2007
AAA:  0-0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP, 2.0 IP, 0.0 BB/9, 22.5 K/9
MLB:  6-1-0, 3.10 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 61.0 IP, 4.7 BB/9, 12.8 K/9

Pitching strictly in relief, Cruz had a strong season for Arizona.  He walked a lot of batters, but allowed an opponents’ BA of only .205 and posted an extremely high K rate.

2008
MLB:  4-0-0, 2.61 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 51.2 IP, 5.4 BB/9, 12.4 K/9

Cruz had another strong season for the D’backs, despite an increase in his already-high walk rate.  His K rate remained extremely high and opponents hit only .192 against him.  He missed most of July with a strained oblique.  After the season he became a free agent and signed a two-year contract with the Royals.

2009
MLB:  3-4-2, 5.72 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 50.1 IP, 5.2 BB/9, 6.8 K/9

Cruz pitched poorly for the Royals, as his K rate dropped to only a little over half of what it had been the previous two years.  He missed most of the season’s last two months.

2010
MLB:  0-0-0, 3.38 ERA, 2.44 WHIP, 5.1 IP, 6.8 BB/9, 11.8 K/9

After he struggled through five games (despite the ERA), the Royals released Cruz.  He eventually had shoulder surgery and missed the rest of the year.

2011
AAA:  0-0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 1.0 IP, 0.0 BB/9, 18.0 K/9
MLB:  5-0-0, 3.88 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 48.2 IP, 5.2 BB/9, 8.5 K/9

Cruz signed with the Rays and had a solid season.  As usual, he walked a lot of batters, but opponents hit only .211 against him.  His K rate was solid but not up to past levels.

The Pirates have a lot of right-handed options for their 2012 bullpen, but Cruz was expected to, and in fact did, make the team due to his track record.  He bounced back well from the shoulder surgery in 2011; it’s possible the shoulder problem hampered him in 2009-10.  It may also help that he’s had a full year with the cutter, so the decreased velocity isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, especially with Cruz being only 33.

UPDATE:  Cruz pitched well for the Pirates early in the season, but struggled increasingly, mainly due to an inability to throw strikes.  He went on the disabled list with a sore shoulder in mid-July, then continued to struggle during a minor league rehab and with the major league team in mid-August.  The Pirates designated him for assignment as part of a series of roster moves when they had a string of minor injuries and other absences late in the month.

STATS
Baseball Reference–Majors
Baseball Reference–Minors
Fangraphs
MLB.com
MiLB.com
CONTRACT INFORMATION
2002: $215,000
2003: $340,000
2004: $370,000
2005:
$600,000
2006:
$575,000
2007:
$1,437,500
2008: $2,937,500
2009: $2,250,000
2010: $3,250,000
2011: $850,000
2012: $850,000
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 1998
MLB Debut: 8/21/2001
MiLB FA Eligible: 2013
MLB FA Eligible: 2013
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: August 21, 2001
Options Remaining: 1 (USED: 2003, 2005)
MLB Service Time: 8.121
TRANSACTIONS
July 4, 1997: Signed as an international free agent by the Chicago Cubs.
August 21, 2001: Contract purchased by the Chicago Cubs.
March 25, 2004:
Traded by the Chicago Cubs with Steve Smyth to the Atlanta Braves for Andy Pratt and Richard Lewis.
December 16, 2004: Traded by the Atlanta Braves with Dan Meyer and Charles Thomas to the Oakland Athletics for Tim Hudson.
March 26, 2006: Traded by the Oakland Athletics to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Brad Halsey.
October 30, 2008:
Became a free agent.
February 28, 2009: Signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals.
April 23, 2010: Released by the Kansas City Royals.
February 3, 2011: Signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Rays.
October 30, 2011: Became a free agent.
February 1, 2012: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
April 4, 2012: Added to 40-man roster by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
August 20, 2012: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates.