Ferguson: This definitely has to be Rasmus' year

Scott Ferguson
1/11/2013 11:30:02 AM
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Colby Rasmus should be entering the prime years of his career. Maybe he is, but he's also at a crossroad in his career with the Blue Jays.
When the Blue Jays acquired this five-tool talent from St. Louis in an eight-player deal with the Redbirds, many insiders considered it a steal for the Jays. After all, they were getting a 24-year-old who could do it all but wanted out of St. Louis due to a conflict with manager Tony LaRussa.
In a little over a year in Toronto, Rasmus has provided more questions than answers. His cumulative batting average is just .213. Though he's shown flashes of power and drove in 75 runs last season, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is not good and his on-base percentage in 2012 was only .289. Injuries of the nagging nature have dogged him and it partly explains why he only stole four bases last season and was caught stealing three times. He can definitely play a quality centre field but all-in-all, he hasn't been the player Alex Anthopoulos thought he was getting. That also explains why his name has been mentioned so often in trade rumours.
Going through the memory bank, I tried to remember a similar highly-touted player in Blue Jays history. It didn't take long to come up with the name of Jose Cruz Jr.
Cruz was one of my all-time favourite Blue Jays. He had talent, he had spunk and he didn't "Big Time" you. There was no "air" about him and he was easy to have a normal conversation with.
The Jays acquired Cruz from Seattle at the non-waiver trade deadline in 1997 for relievers Mike Timlin and Paul Spoljaric. The Mariners were desperate for relief help but no one could believe they would give up a prospect like Cruz. He was the son of a former Major League star Jose Cruz of Astros fame and was the third pick overall in the 1995 draft. He was a switch-hitter with pretty good speed who primarily played centre field.
In many ways, at 25 he had the same kind of year with the Blue Jays that Rasmus did last year at 25. Cruz hit .241 with 14 homers and 45 runs batted in. The following year, at 26, the same age Rasmus is now, Cruz hit only marginally better at .242 but his power numbers increased to 31 homers and 76 runs batted in.
In 2001, at 27 years of age, Cruz had the best and healthiest year of his career. For the one and only time in 12 seasons, he played all 162 games. He slugged 34 home runs, knocked in 88 runs and stole 32 bases. But he was never that good again. Cruz ultimately left the Jays as a free agent and bounced around to the tune of nine teams over his 12 years in the Majors.
Jose Cruz Jr. had a string of seven years where he hit between 23 and 38 home runs, but even he would have to admit he never lived up to the potential many felt he had.
So this is a dilemma for the Blue Jays. They control Colby Rasmus for this season and next before he becomes a free agent in 2015. Do they stick with him in centre field this year and hope he breaks out or at least hold the position until either Anthony Gose or Moises Sierra or someone else can take over full-time?
It's a tough call. Rasmus has the kind of talent that tantalizes us all. He could be a star or like Cruz, turn into a long serving journeyman. This definitely has to be Colby Rasmus' year. If not, he'll merely be held in the same regard as Travis Snider, Syl Campusano, Junior Felix, and yes, Jose Cruz Jr.
If you were wondering about the whereabouts of Jose Cruz Jr., he parlayed that personality into some broadcast work with the Blue Jays last season and is also a player agent. His former Jays teammate, Alex Gonzalez, is also an agent now.
Another ex-Jay, right-hander Kelvim Escobar, is going to try and make a comeback in spring training with Milwaukee as a reliever. Escobar, who had 101 victories and 59 saves over his career is 36-yeard-old now and hasn't played in the Majors since a brief stint with the Angels in 2009. It would be nice to see him make it all the way back.

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