Kansas City Royals Tony Cruz Has A Backup’s Pedigree

Mar 6, 2016; Tempe, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals catcher tony Cruz (7) during a spring training game against the Los Angeles Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 6, 2016; Tempe, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals catcher tony Cruz (7) during a spring training game against the Los Angeles Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports /

Tony Cruz doesn’t have good flow, but he’ll probably be Salvador Perez’s backup catcher anyway

As the Kansas City Royals enter Spring Training, Kings of Kauffman will release a series of articles on the 25-man roster. We will be going through each individual player, including the locks, bubble players, and a few prospects. We will progress through the roster from the top down, continuing with the projected bench players.

So far, we have looked at Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Ian Kennedy, Chris Young, Danny Duffy, Kris Medlen, Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, Wade Davis, Salvador PerezEric HosmerOmar Infante, Christian ColonMike MoustakasAlcides EscobarAlex Gordon, Lorenzo CainJarrod Dyson, Paulo OrlandoReymond Fuentes, and Drew Butera

Today, we will be looking at Tony Cruz

All statistics provided by Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and Brooks Baseball

"2015 stats – .204/.235/.310, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 69 GP, 46 wRC+, -0.4 fWAR2016 Steamer – .227/.272/.330, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 18 GP, 62 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR"

Projected Role – Backup Catcher/Triple-A Catcher

2015 Results

Tony Cruz is the quintessential backup catcher.

Drafted in the 26th round of the 2007 June Amateur Draft, hit well in his first two seasons as a pro before hitting a wall in 2009 at Double-A Springfield,

He recovered in 2010, with a 123 wRC+ over 105 games between Rookie, High-A, and Double-A ball.

Cruz was rewarded by being brought up from Triple-A Memphis in late May, backing up Yadier Molina on a Cardinals team that would win the World Series.

That was the first of five seasons that Cruz would spend in St. Louis, as the primary backup to Molina.

During that span, he never had more than 151 plate appearances, never hit more than two home runs in a season, and never had double-digit extra-base hits.

That is what life is like for a guy backing up a Hall of Fame caliber-catcher.

However, when Molina missed significant time in both 2014 and 2015 to injury, Cruz had to take on a larger role, specifically in 2015.

With Molina’s thumb giving him continued trouble, an injury that required two surgeries to repair this offseason, Cruz played in a career high 69 games last season.

He also posted career highs with 142 at-bats and 151 plate appearances, but left much to be desired with his supremely underwhelming performance,

He posted a career low .235 OBP and a career high 21.2 K%.

2016 Outlook 

The Cardinals shipped Cruz to Kansas City when they signed former Royal Brayan Pena to take over the backup catching duties, a more capable bat, in light of Molina’s injury-lead offensive woes.

With Cruz arbitration eligible, they had the option to trade him to a team willing to pay his salary, or non-tender him and make him a free agent.

The Cardinals elected to trade him, and as a result, got Royals infielder Jose Martinez (no, not that Jose Martinez) in return.

Cruz will be battling the incumbent Drew Butera for the backup catching gig, both career light-hitting backups, and both have their advantages.

Butera, who we discussed yesterday, is a superior defender, doesn’t have any options remaining, and has fabulous hair.

Cruz, on the other hand, is two years younger than Butera and was given a $975,000 contract. It’s hard to figure that the Royals would trade somebody for Cruz and sign him for nearly $1 million just to stick him in Triple-A.

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However, as we discussed yesterday, having depth never hurts, especially at the catchers position, and Cruz’s minor league option give the Royals flexibility in what they want to do with the catchers position.

After all, having three major league experienced catchers, with postseason experience isn’t the worst problem to have.

The Cruz trade in general is a head scratcher.

Dayton Moore already had a very capable defender behind the plate in Butera, who some would argue calls better games than Salvador Perez and who most/all would argue is a better pitch presenter than Perez.

Yes, he’s hapless at the plate, but so is Cruz. Just going off of fWAR, Cruz is a downgrade at the backup catchers position.

Why the Royals would trade a 19-year old infielder for him and give him a $1 million contract is confusing, to say the least.

Next: The Royals And The Best Hair In Baseball

With that being said, however, Cruz is probably the front runner for the backup gig. As you all know, I do not support that, but it’s true.

Dayton Moore and the Royals are not known for wasting dollars, and Cruz being a $1 million Triple-A catcher is certainly a waste of money.

However, this could also be a depth move, and if the Royals want three major league catchers on the roster, Cruz’s minor league option will certainly give them the ability to have that.