Red Sox pitching prospect Nathanael Cruz was recently identified by Baseball America as a sleeper “who could make a leap forward” heading into the 2022 season.
Cruz, who turned 19 last month, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 34 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The right-hander originally signed with the Sox for $200,000 as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2019.
While he missed out on his first full pro season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cruz was one of the youngest arms at the Red Sox’ fall instructional league in 2020.
The following spring, Cruz remained in Fort Myers and spent the entirety of the 2021 minor-league season with the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox. In four appearances (three starts) for Boston’s FCL affiliate, the righty posted a 3.18 ERA and 4.89 xFIP to go along with eight strikeouts to three walks over just 5 2/3 innings of work. He threw just four pitches in his final outing of the year on August 6 and did not appear in another game.
Although Cruz was listed on the club’s 2021 fall instructional league roster, it is unclear how much he participated in the program.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Cruz operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 93-95 mph, an 85-87 mph changeup, and an 80-82 mph curveball, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report. Back in September, SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall noted that Cruz “still has a long way to go with his command and control, and his low-80s breaking ball is a work in progress, but he intrigued scouts and there is upside given his age.”
On that note, Cruz is projected to return to the Florida Complex League for the start of the 2022 minor-league season. If healthy, there is certainly a lot to like about the 19-year-old hurler given his youth, potential, and remaining projection.
(Picture of Nathanael Cruz: Bryan Green/Flickr)