Recently the Astros’ announced their three additions (Domingo Santana OF, Asher Wojciechowski RHP, and LHP Luis Cruz) to the 40-man roster. Santana and Wojciechowski were acquired via trade by Ed Wade and Jeff Luhnow, respectively. Luis Cruz is a left-handed pitcher who was originally drafted by the Houston Astros in the 2008 Amateur Draft out of Puerto Rico. Yes, that is correct, Cruz was drafted during the days of Ed Wade.
He has been coming through the system somewhat slowly as through five minor league seasons his highest level is AA Corpus Christi. In my opinion, Cruz will begin 2014 as a member of a tandem pitching staff for the Corpus Christi Hooks. His addition to the 40-man does not immediately put him into the mix for a roster/bullpen spot for the Astros in 2014.
The Astros organization has moved Cruz around a lot in his five minor league seasons. He spent two seasons at the rookie Greeneville Astros during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He has pitched most of his career as a member of the Lexington Legends from 2010 through 2012. Cruz was briefly assigned to Lancaster in 2011 but was roughed up to a 14.54 ERA in four games started. These starts resulted in just thirteen innings recorded.
His career may have begun to take off as a result of his performance in 2013 between Lancaster and Corpus Christi. Overall he led the Astros’ organization with 150 strikeouts through 130 1/3 innings between the two minor league clubs. From 2008 to 2011, Cruz had been fairly consistent in his K/9 rate between 6.8/9 and 9.1 K/9. Lately he has proven to miss some bats as this rate has increased to a 10.4 K/9 rate in 2013.
The ability to miss bats is something that led to his early success as a member of the Corpus Christi Hooks. Through his first 17 innings for the AA Texas League team, he allowed just five hits while compiling a 2-0 record and 0.53 ERA. He struck out 21 and walked 4 batters. This offseason he is pitching in Puerto Rico and appears to be fatigued, logging 13 1/3 innings in four starts with a 5.40 ERA.
The HR/9 rate is another useful statistic to look at for Cruz. As mentioned before, his first assignment in the hitter-friendly California League definitely did not go well. His 14.54 ERA was partially due to allowing seven home runs in just thirteen innings. But this is a very small sample in the long run of his minor league career. Overall Cruz appears to keep the ball in the park at a reasonable rate as he has a 1.0 HR/9 rate through his 559 innings pitched.
I expect Cruz to play at least one more full season in the minor leagues before contributing to the Houston pitching staff. He is still relatively young as he will not turn 24 until the end of the 2014 MiLB league next September. His addition to the 40-man roster is intriguing as perhaps his ability to record outs via the strikeout may help him sneak into the 2014 bullpen mix.