Some big news broke this morning for the Cincinnati Reds. First we learned that Spencer Steer was being called up when C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic reported the news. Then we found out via Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer that reliever Fernando Cruz would be joining Steer as the two players that were being promoted as September rosters expanded from 26 to 28 players. To make room for the two players on the 40-man roster the Reds transferred Mike Moustakas and Jeff Hoffman to the 60-day injured list.
Spencer Steer and Fernando Cruz couldn’t be any more different. Steer just joined the organization a month ago when he was acquired from the Minnesota Twins in the Tyler Mahle trade. Cruz signed with the Reds as a minor league free agent before the season began. Steer is a top 100 prospect who has quickly worked his way up through the minors. Cruz was drafted in 2007 as a position player, transitioned into a pitcher in 2011, and has spent several years pitching in non-affiliated baseball – including the 2021 season in the Mexican League.
This season Spencer Steer has seen time in Double-A Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul while with the Twins organization, and then Triple-A Louisville while with the Reds organization. Between his three stops this season the 24-year-old has hit .274/.364/.515 with 30 doubles, 2 triples, 23 home runs, 51 walks, and 89 strikeouts in 492 plate appearances. With Louisville since he was acquired at the deadline he’s played in 23 games and hit .294/.375/.467 with 7 doubles and 3 home runs. What’s been interesting to see is that the Reds recently began playing Steer all over the field. For the most part of his career he’s spent time playing second, third, and a little bit of shortstop. But over the last week-and-a-half the Reds have started him in right field, first base, second base, third base, and at shortstop. The start in right field was the first time he’d ever played in the outfield. You can see his career stats here.
As for Fernando Cruz, here’s a part of something I wrote about him over at RedsMinorLeagues.com a little more than two weeks ago:
It’s been a long journey, both in years and in travel for Fernando Cruz when it comes to professional baseball. Drafted in 2007 out of high school in Puerto Rico by the Royals, Cruz was originally a shortstop. He remained one through May of the 2011 season, but he never really developed at the plate, topping out in A-ball where he hit just .221/.263/.267 in 119 games. That’s when the Royals sent him back to their complex and he began to work as a pitcher. He struggled that first year, understandably. He struggled the next year, too, and after the 2012 season he was released. Over the next three winters he pitched in the Puerto Rican Winter League, but that seems to be the extent of his playing baseball – he was not playing anywhere in affiliated or in independent leagues as far as I can tell.
After posting a 1.52 ERA in the winter of 2014/2015, the Chicago Cubs signed him and he pitched for them for a season in the minors before electing free agency. He re-signed with them in the winter, but he was released at the end of spring training and would pitch in the Can-Am Association for New Jersey for the next two seasons before splitting the 2018 season between the Can-Am and Mexican League. In 2019 he only pitched in the winter league. The same held true in 2020. Then in 2021 he pitched in Mexico for both the summer and winter leagues, as well as in Puerto Rico in their winter league before signing with the Reds in February. It was his first chance in affiliated ball since 2015.
It’s just an incredible story to go from not having played affiliated baseball in 7 seasons to signing a minor league deal and then reaching the Major Leagues.
This season Cruz has served as the Bats closer and he’s picked up 23 saves this year while posting a 2.89 ERA in 51 games. In his 56.0 innings pitched he’s given up 39 hits, allowed 4 home runs, walked 19 batters, and he’s struck out 66. You can see his career stats here.
Those are pretty good numbers, but he’s been even better than that for a while now. From June 8th through June 15 he and into some issues. He allowed at least one run in each of his four appearances, giving up six earned runs in 3.0 innings in that span. Since then he’s pitched in 27 games and posted a 1.13 ERA over 32.0 innings with 18 hits allowed, a single home run, walked just nine batters, and he’s struck out 40. Opposing hitters have managed a .161/.232/.223 line against him over that time.
As for his stuff, he’s going to bring a fastball int he 93-95 MPH range that touches higher. He’ll mix in a slider in the mid-80’s as well as a change up in the low 80’s. Cruz throws plenty of strikes, and he’s kept the ball in the ballpark well this season, though his ground ball rate is a little bit below average.
The Reds are off today, so both players are going to have to wait until Friday to officially join the club on the field when the team welcomes the Colorado Rockies to Great American Ball Park.