Reds pitcher Fernando Cruz should have an expanded role in 2023

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Fernando Cruz
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Fernando Cruz / Jamie Sabau/GettyImages

It was a long and trying road for Cincinnati Reds pitcher Fernando Cruz, but at 32 years old, the right-hander finally made his Major League Baseball debut in 2022. Cruz is very much a story of perseverance and triumph over adversity.

The Kansas City Royals selected Cruz in the sixth round of the 2007 MLB Draft as an infielder. After very little success in the minor leagues, Cruz changed positions - to a pitcher. Cruz joined the Chicago Cubs in 2015, played in various independent leagues for three years after that, and then joined the Mexican League in 2018.

It wasn't until the Cincinnati Reds signed Fernando Cruz to a minor league deal this past January that he found his way back to a major league affiliate. Cruz was dominant at Triple-A Louisville this past season and when rosters expanded in September, the moment that he'd been waiting for all his life happened. Cruz made it to The Show.

What role will Reds pitcher Fernando Cruz have in 2023?

Fernando Cruz will, in all likelihood, survive the impending roster crunch with the upcoming addition of so many budding prospects (Elly De La Cruz, Noelvi Marte, Brandon Williamson, etc.), but will will his role be when spring training begins in February?

The Cincinnati Reds have a large number of relievers returning from injury in 2023. Tejay Antone, who was out for the entire season, is expected to return to the relief corps following Tommy John surgery in 2021. Lucas Sims, Jeff Hoffman, and Tony Santillan, all of whom ended the 2022 season on the 60-day IL, are expected to return to the bullpen as well.

Cruz, however, could quickly find his way into an expanded role in 2023. The closer for the Louisville Bats in 2022, Cruz recorded 23 saves for Triple-A Louisville last season with 66 punch outs in 56 innings of work. In his 14 appearances with the Reds, Cruz put up a 1.23 ERA and a 12.9 K/9.

Cruz has a four-pitch mix, and opposing batters had a horrific time trying to figure out his split-finger fastball. According to Baseball Savant, Cruz allowed a batting average against of just .042 and an expected batting average against of only .084. If those numbers translate to his game in 2023, David Bell will have hard time keeping Cruz in the bullpen late in games.

Cruz will be jockeying for playing time during spring training and on into the 2023 season. Aside from Alexis Diaz, and possibly Tejay Antone, it's unlikely that any reliever will be assigned a specific role next season.

Next. Way-too-early Reds 2023 Opening Day roster predictions. dark