The Shortstop and Third Base Conundrum
There’s far more pressing issues to analyze than Andre Ethier trade rumors which will never materialize into anything. Scott wrote a piece about Why Cochito Has Earned the Third Base Job For the Dodgers, and I totally agree that Luis Cruz‘s performance last season with the Dodgers should give him the first shot at starting at the hot corner for the Dodgers on Opening Day 2013 and beyond. He did everything he could to inject the team with fresh enthusiasm, solid defense, and some good hitting during his fill-in turned full-time stint last year. Cruz propelled himself to become a late season fan favorite which spurred the Dodgers to even make some “Cruuuuuuz” jerseys in response to his crowd pleasing and chant inducing play at Dodger Stadium. But can that feel good story transition into 2013?
I’d rather have Hanley Ramirez return to his natural position at shortstop then have him play at third base. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The Dodgers have said that they are going with Hanley Ramirez at shortstop and Luis Cruz at third barring any trades or acquisitions. It wasn’t any secret that Hanley was upset at being uprooted from his natural position at shortstop in Miami last spring after the Marlins signed Jose Reyes. Ramirez now has an opportunity to return to his natural position with the Dodgers, but Don Mattingly has stressed that it is imperative that he works on his defense at that position. We all cringed last season when Hanley double clutched a ball or was slow to throw to first base. Ramirez has been asked to work on his defense during the winter and Spring Training to hopefully iron out any rustiness.Mattingly had this to say about the shortstop/third base questions:
"“I think Hanley will be really important because, if Hanley plays short and he can play the way he’s capable of playing it, I’m not really concerned about third (where Luis Cruz is penciled in as the starter). The problem gets to be, if that’s not working out at short, then I’ve got issues with that, and I’ve got to start flipping guys around. If short is steady, I’m good with third. If short doesn’t get steady, then I’ve got issues.”"
Another issue which I have thought about this offseason is not only regarding Hanley’s
At this point, Luis Cruz is our only option for third base. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
capabilities at shortstop, but more importantly is whether Luis Cruz can play at the same level he did through 78 games with the Dodgers in 2012 where he hit .297/.322/.431 during the course of an entire Major League season. Before last year, Cruz had only played in 56 big league games for the Pirates and Brewers. It’s not totally far-fetched that he has found his groove with the Dodgers, and he will be productive next season. Yet there has to be some sort of back-up plan, and well there isn’t much of one.Unless you consider Juan Uribe a back-up plan. Or perhaps Jerry Hairston Jr., who is coming off of hip surgery and who has also said in the past that he feels the least comfortable playing third base. Nick Punto can play third, but he’s just not even in the realm of feasibility as an everyday starting option. Right now, Luis Cruz is the best and pretty much only option for third base.
Moving Hanley back to third and playing Dee Gordon at shortstop is an option, but the lack of stability for Hanley at one position would certainly cause issue. It’s not even about whether he wants to play at shortstop or third base, but the Dodgers can’t expect him to shore up his defense if he’s constantly shuffled between positions.
I like Cruz. I hope he is successful as a Dodger in 2013. The more Cruuuuuuz cheers we hear next season, the sooner Juan Uribe will be gone. Some argue that if Cruz is moved to a bench or utility role that would push Uribe or maybe Punto off the roster. That would be nice, but I’m all but certain that Uribe will be wasting a roster spot next season. I hope I am wrong though.
Luis Cruz has been playing winter ball in the Liga Mexicana del Pacifico on the Tomateros de Culiacan. In 19 games, he is hitting .173 with 13 hits and 13 strikeouts in 75 at bats.
Let me know who you would like to see the Dodgers acquire for third base or whether they should stick with Luis Cruz.