Cubs Attached to One of the Best International Prospects in Next Year’s Class
Here’s something that is very awkward to discuss, but it’s in the nature of being a baseball fan who is into the prospect side of things. When there was the strong chance that MLB would institute an international draft as part of last year’s CBA negotiations, I was at least a little bummed that it would mean the Cubs would not land a specific prospect to whom they had already been attached. You know, for 2024. We knew that LAST year. Because, wink wink nudge nudge, we all know that these deals come together far in advance of the prospects actually turning 16, when they are eligible to sign.
So that is all to say that, while I do believe the international system needs revamping and more safeguards, I also was happy – *in this very specific and limited context* – that the Cubs are still going to be attached to this particular prospect.
The prospect in question is Dominican shortstop Fernando Cruz, who was described late last year by some as the top prospect in the entire 2024 IFA class. He looked like a stud.
Thankfully, the Cubs are still attached to Cruz, who is lauded by Baseball America as among the top prospects in the class, though maybe not THE top guy (that is partly due to bonuses, though, where it looks like Cruz is expected to get the third largest bonus in the class, not the largest).
BA wrote up ten prospects in the upcoming class to watch, and they had effusive praise for Cruz, while reiterating the connection to the Cubs. And, bonus, it turns out there’s a familial connection that I wasn’t aware of. From BA:
Fernando Cruz, SS, Dominican Republic
Starlin Castro signed with the Cubs in 2006 and became the organization’s No. 1 prospect entering the 2010 season, reaching the big leagues at 20 and spending 2010-15 as Chicago’s big league shortstop. His cousin, Cruz, is one of the premier players eligible to sign in 2024 and looks set to follow in his footsteps with the Cubs, with Cruz’s bonus expected to be around $4 million. Cruz is 5-foot-11 with strong hands and forearms that help him generate excellent bat speed for 16. Some scouts thought Cruz showed some swing-and-miss tendencies against live pitching, but he is able to let the ball travel deep and drive the ball with authority to right-center field or turn on pitches on the inner third for home run power to his pull side. Cruz is a plus runner and an explosive athlete at shortstop. Like a lot of young shortstops, there are times where he can play out of control, but he has the hands, range, instincts and arm strength that give him a good chance to handle shortstop long term.
So, then, if all goes according to plan, Cruz will join the Cubs organization on January 15. I suspect his ranking process within the organization is going to be similar to that of Cristian Hernández, who was similarly lauded in his class (and who, by the way, has started out really hot in his first full-season assignment this year). Some pundits will be high on Cruz right away, while others will want to see some actual pro performance – maybe even Stateside performance, and maybe even Stateside full-season performance – before making a more complete determination of what kind of caliber prospect he is. That tends to be where I land, by the way, wanting to see how a player competes against other full-season pros before I could confidently discuss where he might rank in the Cubs’ system, for example. So it might be a couple years – such is the nature of IFA under the current system.
For much more on Cruz, if you missed it, make sure you check out the earlier write-up.