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Scouting Report: Francisco Cruceta

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on March 19, 2006

PLAYER POS. HT WT AGE 2005 STATS @ AAA
31 – Francisco Cruceta RHP 6-3 220 24 111.1 IP, 134 H, 35 BB, 102 SO

Francisco Cruceta was acquired by the Seattle Mariners via the waiver wire on August 26, 2005 and joined the Tacoma Rainiers in their crusade to the Pacific Coast League Championship last September. Cruceta was previously a member of the Cleveland Indians.

Signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cruceta was dealt to the Indians in return for right-hander Paul Schuey in July of 2002.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound righty made his big-league debut in September, 2004, and went 0-1 in two starts for Cleveland. In those two starts, the Dominican went 7.2 innings allowing 10 hits and eight earned runs. But his bloated ERA was a bit deceiving. Cruceta served up a three-run homer and issued four walks, but also fanned nine.

As he enters his first full season with the M’s, Cruceta is in camp trying to open some eyes, and he’s doing just that. Just hours after I posted here that he’d be one of the seven relievers I’d take north in two weeks, the 24-year-old went out and had his best outing of the spring, covering three scoreless innings, walking two – the only base runners – and striking out four in the 8-5 loss to Colorado on Sunday afternoon.

Granted, he was pitching against what was primarily a Triple-A lineup, but he did exactly what you’d want him to do with the opportunity – he owned it.

For the spring, Cruceta has made four appearances, all in relief, walked three, allowed three hits – all singles – and struck out nine. He’s yet to yield a run of any kind.

He’s also yet to throw a wild pitch, which is a tad surprising since he tossed 11 in 111.2 innings a year ago, including three in just nine innings with Tacoma.

Fastball: 60
Cruceta features a four-seam fastball that sits between 90-94 mph and occasionally uses a two-seamer that shows some sink and a bit of boring action into right-handed hitters.

Curve Ball: 50-55
At times, Cruceta’s curve is a plus pitch but he’s rarely shown the ability to use it effectively over long stretches, which is one of the reasons the M’s like him in relief. When he stays on top of the pitch, it’s a quality offering and can be used as a strikeout pitch.

Changeup: 50
There was no consensus on Cruceta’s change as some thought it was non-existent and others thought it was an above-average pitch. It’s my belief that some scouts may have been confusing his split with his change. Cruceta threw four good changeups in Sunday’s game, getting a strikeout with one and a called strike on another. He doesn’t throw it a lot, but that may change this season as he undergoes a full Chavy-over. He has good arm action and decent command of the pitch.

Split: 55
This is why he has 46 wild pitches in six seasons as a pro, including 11 in 2002 and 13 in 2000. His splitter has good action and he likes throwing it. Usually sitting in the 87-91 range, Cruceta’s splitter is similar to that of Curt Schilling in that he uses it in the way that other pitchers use their change.

Mechanics/Delivery: 60
Cruceta’s delivery is fine, though he tends to open up a little early at times. Chaves’ first move with Cruceta last August was a change in where he stood on the pitching rubber. Starting further to his left forced Cruceta to stay closed until his arm could catch up with his body and then explode toward the plate in one motion.

Future:
Cruceta has pretty decent stuff and when he’s at his best can stifle a solid lineup. His crutch is his command. He can leave pitches over the middle of the plate, and often falls in love with his four-seamer, which tops out at 93-94 mph, but doesn’t have much movement.

His future is probably as a two-inning relief option who can spot start. if he can ever harnass his splitter, curve ball and command with his fastball, primarily his two-seamer, he has the stuff to be a No. 3 starter.

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