Circumstances Like Joseph Cruz Are Far Too Common

By Robbie Knopf

It was very sad what happened to Joseph Cruz on Saturday. As we detailed yesterday, Cruz felt two pops in his right, throwing arm and fell to his knees on the field before leaving the game. It was a scene that couldn’t help but remind Rays fans of arguably the scariest moment in Rays history, when left-hander Tony Saunders broke his arm throwing a pitch in 1999, derailing his entire career. Cruz hopes that he’ll be able to move on from this incident without serious injury. But it’s part of a longer struggle for Cruz that has thrown his career off course. Since posting an identical 2.85 ERA and 2.85 FIP in a dominant 2010 season at High-A, Cruz has completely fallen apart over the past two seasons, posting just a 5.41 ERA and 4.61 FIP in 30 starts and 6 relief appearances over the last 2 innings at Double-A, and dealing with two major injuries, a shoulder injury in 2011 and now this injury here. Maybe he’ll never recover.

It’s unfortunate to see a pitcher who has shown nice ability completely fall apart. But it happens very often. You see a pitcher dominate in the minors and you think that he’s going to be a superstar in the major leagues someday. It’s not anywhere near that clear-cut. Injuries and simply poor performance destroy budding career after budding career. This is why you can’t take prospects for granted at all. It’s one thing to see potential. It’s another thing to see a major league consistently perform and show an ability to stay healthy. No prospect, no matter how good, is a sure thing.

The good thing about the Joseph Cruz situation is that it’s not as though he was the Rays only up-and-coming young starting pitching prospect. The Rays continue to draft, sign, and acquire promising pitching prospects. People say that the Rays have too much pitching now. But considering all the variability involved with pitching prospects, you can never put your eggs in one basket or even five. Just look at the Rays current crop of pitchers and pitching prospects. Alex Torres and Nick Barnese have gone by the wayside, Jake McGee and Wade Davis have needed to become relievers, and we have seen even arguably the best prospects of them all, David Price and now Matt Moore, struggle in their first full big league season. You honestly never know. And with that in mind, teams always have to take precautions knowing that Plan D or Plan E is just as likely of going into effect if not more likely compared to Plan A. You never know what can happen and always have to take that into account.