For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season. Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series. All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis. Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.
Player: Tony Cruz
Season stats: 69 games, 151 PA, 6 R, 7 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 6 BB, 32 K, .204/.235/.310, 47 OPS+, -0.8 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Goat 3
Overall grade: C
Positives: Again got paid to be Yadier Molina‘s backup, which in usage terms (not quality terms) is like Wes Keene filling in on days when I don’t write….hit 30 points better against lefties, though that was just .231….hit .467 on the first pitch….hit .333 in late and close situations (27 PA)….hit the highest in September (.237), which is when he got the most regular playing time….had only one hit in the playoffs, but it was a double that cut the Game 4 deficit (at the time) in half and almost scored the tying run on Brandon Moss‘s single, instead being tossed out at home.
Negatives: Hit basically like you’ve come to expect from Tony Cruz….hit under .200 against right-handers, who he saw the bulk of his time against….hit under .200 in three separate months….hit .115 as a pinch-hitter….hit .146 with a .491 OPS with no outs in an inning….hit .111 with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Overview: Look, by now you know what Cruz is. We’ve gotten past the “he could start on a lot of major league teams” stage as we’ve seen over the past two years that, given playing time, he really couldn’t. We still hear the “he’s just like Yadi defensively” mantra sometimes, but that’s probably also overblown–this year Cruz allowed 11 wild pitches in 287 innings caught (a WP roughly every 26 innings) compared to Molina’s 34 in almost 1150 innings (a WP roughly every 34 innings). When you have a guy like Molina that’s going to play 90% of the time, it’s hard to really worry much about his backup.
The problem is, lately Molina’s had to play 90% of the time because of his backup. You always want Molina out there, but there are times where a rest would be a good thing. However, with Cruz as your backup, it’s tough to allow Molina any time off, especially when the offense is struggling as it is. Cruz isn’t likely to help that out on a regular basis.
Outlook: Cruz is up for arbitration and likely will get another crack at being Molina’s backup, mainly because there’s not an obvious choice to replace him. Some are high on Michael Ohlman and it’s possible that, by mid-season or later, he’d be a guy that you could legitimately use as a replacement, but it would take some sort of trade to bring in a guy that’s going to replace Cruz on the Opening Day roster and it would be a little surprising if John Mozeliak spent the time to do that when there are other issues to address.