Last year the Astros selected reliever Rhiner Cruz with the first overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft. The hard throwing 25-year old had never pitched above A-ball until the 2011 season, making the pick a bit of a risky one. Cruz managed to stay on the big league roster all season to avoid being returned to the Mets organization. This season he could be headed back to the minors, especially if the Astros select another pitcher in next week’s Rule 5 Draft.
Cruz got off to a good start in Houston, posting a 2.08 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in April. But it didn’t take long for National League hitters to adjust. Cruz allowed an average of two baserunners per inning over the next four months before finishing out the season with a solid September. Cruz logged a 6.05 ERA and a 1.71 WHIP in 55 innings of work on the year. Those are not exactly the kind of numbers that are going to impress the boss. Barring a fantastic spring, I would expect to see Cruz back in the minors to start the 2013 season.
The tools are there but control has been the main problem for Cruz. He had the highest average fastball velocity on the team at 95.1 m.p.h. but that didn’t translate into a lot of strikeouts. Cruz will have to reduce the walks (4.7 per 9 inings) and hits allowed (10.6 per 9 innings) to make it back to the big leagues.
Cruz is currently working on his game in the Dominican Winter League. In eight appearances for Gigantes del Cibao, Cruz has allowed eight hits and four walks. He has 11 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.35.