The Baltimore Orioles have inked 25 year old Venezuelan left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz to a one year, major league deal, the team announced on Twiiter early tonight. Cruz has been added to Baltimore’s 40 man roster and is expected compete for a spot in Orioles bullpen come spring training. The career minor leauger spent 2013 in the Dodgers organization, where he pitched well in relief, posting a 2.67 ERA, striking out over 11.2 batters per nines, and limiting lefties to a .217/.298/.261 line.
It is unusual for a team to hand out a major league contract to a free agent who has never actually played in the big leagues, but – aside from a brief flirtation with the a handful of top ten team prospect list in 2009 – most of Cruz’s value was not apparent before 2013. Prior to that he had spent seven seasons struggling as a starter in the Cleveland and Detroit systems, before Los Angeles threw him into the bullpen full time.
Said GM Dan Duquette of Cruz, “He’s a big strong left-handed pitcher with good pitches. He dominated left-handed hitters in Triple-A last year and showed the capability to gets swings and misses. At 25, he should be able to compete for our big league club.”
Cruz produces those swings and misses largely thanks to his above average stuff. He works primarily off of a low 90′s two seamer that can touch 96 and has excellent sink, while also featuring a terrific power curve, with hard 12-6 movement. Although his command is certainly in question (4.7 BB/9 last season), he should produce enough whiffs and induce enough grounders to be effective in Camden Yards.