School: Palm Beach Community College, Florida
Selected 2010 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Dustin Mattison (9): I truly believe that Tony Cruz might be the most underrated prospect in the Cardinals' system. The 24-year-old was converted to catcher at the same time as Steven Hill. Unlike Hill, Cruz has proven that he is capable of staying behind the plate. Though he might not be up for handing the rigors of an everyday catching job at this time, I believe that he would have offered the organization a low cost option at backup catcher even in 2011. Interestingly, his ZIPS projection for next year is better than that of backup Gerald Laird.
Cruz has good catch and throw skills along with the aptitude of being able to work with a pitching staff. His footwork is progressing and with the work ethic he has shown, he should be able to handle the duties of a big league catcher.
He posted similar numbers in almost equal games at Palm Beach and Springfield last summer. The one significant difference is the .188 isolated power number he posted in the Texas League. He proved this was no fluke by going to the Arizona Fall League and hitting .342/.393/.500 in 76 at bats. Cruz has always showed doubles power but is beginning to look like he could be a valuable backstop with some pop. It will be interesting to see who gets most of the time behind the plate at Memphis in 2011.
Message board community (29): Tony Cruz was the community's 29th pick, after completely missing the list the year before. He turned 24 last August. Part of what makes him interesting is that he has played 132 minor league games at third and 192 at catcher, a rare combination.
Cruz showed huge improvement in his second year in Double-A. In 2009, he posted a .281 OBP, .366 SLG in 444 at-bats at Springfield. He was dropped back to Palm Beach for part of 2010, but then came back to Double-A with .363 OBP, .477 SLG in 169 at-bats. He hit well enough to get in four games at Triple-A and earn an invitation to the AFL.
I used the Surprise at Surprise line yesterday, but should have kept it for today. In the AFL, Cruz's OBP was .393, SLG an even .500, in 76 at-bats. As with Kozma, I wonder if the community would have ranked him a bit higher if his AFL work had been just a bit earlier. If Cruz can keep up his improvement in hitting, I could imagine seeing him in St. Louis very soon. - Gagliano
Brian Walton (16): It is unusual when a player makes his debut on this list in the top half four years after being drafted, yet that is what Cruz accomplished here. He clearly earned it from his 2010 performance, but remains a work in progress.
New organizational hitting coordinator Derrick May had Cruz in Springfield in each of the last two seasons. He witnessed a major difference in approach year-to-year that has translated to improved results with the bat for the catcher.
"The difference in him between last year and this year is that he is using the whole field," May told me in November. "He is really learning how to hit. He is a guy that knows how to catch, but he is learning how to hit and he is getting better and better every year."
May has no doubt that Cruz, who has experience at both corner infield positions, is a good enough catcher to make it there.
"A lot of people here (in the AFL) and a lot of people I talk to like the way he handles the staff, the way he calls the game and that he throws out runners," May stated. "He has one of the more accurate arms and quick releases that you are going to find… and he can hit."
Despite all the positive vibes, including having been added to the Cardinals 40-man roster in November, I would not be surprised to see Cruz dropped a level to start the season for the second consecutive year. The addition of Laird in St. Louis sentences Bryan Anderson to another year in Memphis. For Cruz to get regular at-bats may mean a return to Springfield, with Steven Hill backing up Anderson.
No matter the level, like May, I expect Cruz to keep hitting in 2011.
Our 2011 top 40 countdown continues: To see our entire list of 40 Cardinals prospects, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.
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