Since signing with the Giants as a 17-year-old from the Dominican Republic in 2017, righthander Jose Cruz has always flown somewhat under the radar.
Then came 2022.
At Low-A San Jose, Cruz put together an eye-popping season. He allowed just 21 hits in 52.1 innings, struck out 86, had a 2.06 ERA and converted all six of his save opportunities.
That performance earned him a spot on the 40-man roster in November.
Giants farm director Kyle Haines termed Cruz “a real development story . . . a player who never has made these top prospect lists, never has this big name. He just constantly has been getting better over the last few years.”
Cruz spent 2021 in the Arizona Complex League, where he struck out 42 hitters in 24.1 innings. The performance was a precursor to his full-season debut.
The righthander pairs a mid-90s fastball that can touch 98 mph with what Haines terms a swing-and-miss changeup. In Best Tools voting, managers singled out Cruz’s changeup as the best in the California League.
“The fastball velo gets hitters in a hurry,” Haines said. “The changeup has a lot of similarities to the fastball—it’s just 10 (miles per hour) slower . . . So much of the effectiveness of the changeup is resembling the fastball, and that’s what his does.”
In 2021, the Giants had three righthanded relievers make their major league debuts at age 23 or younger: Camilo Doval—who is now the closer—Gregory Santos and Kervin Castro, who’s now in the Cubs’ organization.
Cruz turns 23 on May 18 and could be on a fairly fast track to San Francisco.
“The path for righthanded relievers can be really quick, regardless of the starting point or the previous season,” Haines said. “When is he ready (for the majors)? Ultimately, his performance next year will dictate when the right time is.
“We know if he grows next year as much as he did this past year, it would be sooner rather than later.”