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Top 40 All-Time Greatest Blue Jays: #35 Jose Cruz Jr.

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Jose Javier Cruz Jr. | OF | 1997-2002 | Career Stats

Top 10 Toronto Blue Jays Batting Ranks (min. 2000 PA):

Slugging %: 9th (.462)
Home Runs: 8th (122)
Strikeouts: 7th (635)
Stolen Bases: T-9th (85)

Jose Cruz Jr. is not, nor has ever been, a great player. He's best remembered as someone who could never quite meet the lofty expectations bestowed upon him as a prospect. With that said, during his tenure with the Jays, he was no schlub, as he possessed a rare combination of power and speed that led to a 30/30 season in 2001.

Cruz Jr., drafted third overall in the 1995 amateur draft by the Seattle Mariners, enjoyed a successful minor league career. He had the ability to take a walk and displayed burgeoning power and speed. However, he had a high number of strikeouts, which led to consistently low batting averages. In fact, he's been plagued by high strikeout totals his whole career, as evidenced by his 100+ strikeouts in each of the past six seasons. Nevertheless, he was a budding star whose combination of power and speed seemed like they would vault him to all-star status.

In 1997, the Seattle Mariners were in the thick of a playoff hunt, but were consistently being burned by their atrocious bullpen. For instance, their closer, Norm Charlton, posted a 7.27 ERA in 69.3 IP that season. Honestly, I don't know how he managed to pitch that many innings with such poor statistics. Sweet Lou Piniella must really love his veterans, I guess. In an attempt to bolster his bullpen for the stretch run, GM made two awful trades. First, he traded Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek for Heathcliff Slocumb, an old relief pitcher who had an ERA of 5.79 at the time they acquired him. Secondly, he traded away Jose Cruz Jr. in exchange for two relief pitchers, Mike Timlin and Paul Spoljaric. With the help of their newly acquired relief pitchers, the Mariners won their division, but they no doubt paid long-term dividends in order to do so.

With the Jays, Cruz Jr. struggled at the plate, which led to a demotion to AAA at the beginning of the 1998 season. In AAA, he mashed, posting a .990 OPS to prove he was ready for a full-time role in the majors. However, he never quite matched that success. He's only posted one season with an OPS above .800, and that was the season he joined the 30/30 club (1998). Throughout his career, he's been able to take a walk, but he's only a career .250 hitter, so he's not exactly an on-base machine.

In terms of fielding, he's never been a standount player, but he's held his own. He's best served fielding a corner outfield position because his range is not suited for CF. Arizona found out the hard way when they played him in CF last season.

As with many prospects who couldn't quite live up to the hype, it's not what Cruz Jr. did that we remember, it's what he didn't do.