Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Cruz Control

A technique sometimes used by the agents of Latino ballplayers is to falsify their age to a younger number so that their productivity curve makes them appear as though they have more potential and are more worthy of recruiting.

A careful investigation of the Puerto Rican vital statistics office has shown conclusively that Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Jose Cruz Jr., who has never quite lived up to the hyperbole, is actually older than Jose Cruz Sr.

Cruz last year was the property of the Boston Red Sox and the Arizona Diamondbacks, both of which thought so little of him they let him walk into the sure-handed possession of now-fired Dodgers general manager Paul Heezdetested.

Though Cruz had a decent year in 2001 - hitting 34 homers with an OPS of .856 - he has not had another full season with an OPS higher than .791. In 156 at-bats with the Dodgers last year, he batted .301 with a .923 OPS, but expect those numbers to return to earth under conditions of extended plate appearances.

Working in Cruz's favor, however, is the fact that young, supposed five-tool outfielder Jason Repko has yet to exhibit a great deal of his anticipated promise. Repko, however, did bat .291 with a league-leading 8 homers in 117 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League in 2004.

Don't be surprised if the Dodgers look over another outfielder or two during spring training.