Manager Don Mattingly figured 78 games was a big enough sample size to give Luis Cruz the third base job headed into the 2013 season, without looking at the bigger picture.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are struggling through the early stages of the 2013 season, as they currently sit at .500 (7-7) and in fourth place in the competitive National League West division.
All-Star Matt Kemp has been at the forefront of the teams’ early struggles, hitting just .185 with four RBIs, no home runs, and 17 strikeouts in 54 at-bats. It’s hard to imagine that Kemp stays in this slump for an extended period of time based off of his track record in the big leagues.
The real issue for the Dodgers could be with their everyday third baseman, Luis Cruz. Dodger fans fell in love with Cruz during the 2012 season, when he finally got the opportunity to play in Los Angeles, after numerous injuries occurred on the big league club. Cruz took full advantage of that rare opportunity and never looked back. He started 48 games at third base, 23 games at shortstop, two games at second base and played in 78 games overall.
In those 78 games, Cruz got 283 at bats and finished the season hitting .297 with six home runs, 34 RBIs and a .431 slugging percentage.
The bigger picture is that Cruz might not be an everyday player at the big league level, especially if you look back at his track record. The 29-year-old only had 56 major league games under his belt before last season, which should be a red flag right there. Most everyday players in the big leagues don’t usually play 10-plus years of minor league ball before earning that label.
Before last season, Cruz had just 154 major league at bats in his career and never got more than 70 at bats in a season.
Now, 36 at-bats into Cruz’s 2013 campaign, he is hitting just .103. This should be a concern for the Dodgers going forward because they’ve been playing musical chairs on the right side of the infield with Hanley Ramirez on the DL and Juan Uribe, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston Jr. getting opportunities off of the bench.
Cruz’s track record doesn’t show the consistency of your ideal everyday player, so if he doesn’t come out of this slump than this might actually be who he really is. He has shown his pop to the left and right center gaps, while flashing the leather at multiple infield positions, so Cruz might not be consistent enough as an everyday player in the major leagues, but he could still be a valuable asset off of the Dodgers bench.
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