Every year there always seems to be that one guy that comes out of nowhere and bursts onto the scene. This year for the Dodgers it was Luis “Cochito” Cruz.
The Sonora, Mexico native had bounced between five different organizations over 11 years, playing in a grand total of 56 major league games during that span.
Cruz signed a minor-league contract with the Dodgers prior to the 2012 season and made an immediate impact upon replacing Gordon.
He had an RBI in each of his first four games, and displayed stellar defense at short. After a few games, Hanley Ramirez reclaimed his spot at shortstop and Cruz moved over to third base where he continued to show his versatility with the glove.
Cruz was a surprising source of offense over the second half of the season, and was the consummate team player.
Cruz also had a 12-game hitting streak, the second longest of the season for the Dodgers.
The Numbers: .297, 6 HR, 40 RBI, 26 R, .322 OBP, .753 OPS, 78 games played
Since Cruz had never played more than 27 games in a season, this was technically his rookie year. But, Cruz was no ordinary rookie, and easily set career marks in all offensive categories.
Cruz was tied for 4th on the Dodgers with 20 doubles.
The Dodgers had gone with several different looks at third base, from Juan Uribe, to Jerry Hairston, Jr., to Adam Kennedy. Cochito Cruz finally brought some stability to the position not only with his bat, but his glove, as well.
July 4 vs. Reds – Cruz set the tone for the Dodgers in his third game of the season. Cruz smacked an RBI single in the 1st inning and went 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in a 4-1 Dodgers victory.
July 18 vs. Phillies – Cruz went 2-for-5 with two doubles and a run scored in a 5-3 extra innings Dodgers win. Cruz doubled to lead off the 10th inning and scored the go-ahead run on a Bobby Abreu single. Cochito would double again in the 11th inning but would be left on base.
July 23 vs. Cardinals – Cruz again set the tone for the Dodgers, slugging a three run home run off of Cardinals’ starter Joe Kelly to give the Blue Crew a 3-1 lead, his second homer of the year. The Dodgers would go on to win the game 5-3.
Aug. 14 vs. Pirates – Cruz went 3-for-5 with a run scored and 3 RBIs in an 11-0 beat down of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cruz had raised his batting average up to a season-high .270 at this point.
Sept. 3 vs. Padres – Cruz went a season best 4-for-5 and scored the first run of an eventual 4-3 Dodgers’ win. Despite the four singles from Cochito, the Dodgers would need 11 innings to beat the Padres.
Although his sample size was only a half-season, Cruz showed what he can do when given regular playing time, and has earned consideration for a starting spot next season.
One of the biggest decisions the Dodgers will have to make before next season is whether to go with Cruz or Gordon at the open infield position. This decision probably will not be made until Spring Training.
Cruz has proven to be a versatile defensive infielder and he showed some pop with the bat and a penchant for hitting in the clutch.
Gordon possesses speed that can change the game, but his defense has been a liability and Gordon has struggled to get on base. Additionally, Cruz can play any infield position and allows Hanley Ramirez to stay at shortstop.
Even if Cruz does not earn a starting spot on the squad, Cruz should continue to be a key member of the 2013 Dodgers as a bat off the bench and utility infielder.