January 15, 2024, is the official international signing day across Major League Baseball.
Of course, for the San Diego Padres, the international signee that has generated the most significant buzz, and justifiably so, is the No.1 ranked international prospect, Dominican shortstop Leodalis De Vries.
However, De Vries is not the only major signee from the international prospect pool that A.J. Preller & the San Diego Padres have hauled into their system.
The Friars also hauled in arguably the top international pitching prospect of the 2024 international class as they officially inked right-handed pitcher Humberto Cruz.
Cruz, who is from Monterrey, NL, Mexico, was formerly with the Diablos Rojos del México, the winningest team in Mexican Baseball League history, before signing with the Padres.
Standing at 6-foot-2, Cruz is long and wiry, as many 17-year-olds are, and projects as a starting pitcher. With that frame and size, he undoubtedly will fill out as he gets older and has more time with professional strength and conditioning coaches.
Still, Cruz’s intangibles and projections have profiled him as one of the best pitching prospects in the 2o24 international class rankings, as Baseball America has Cruz as their No. 56 overall prospect and No. 1 overall pitching prospect in the class.
FanGraphs is equally as high on the San Diego signee as he is their No. 24 overall prospect and No. 1 overall pitching prospect in the 2o24 class. FanGraphs also grades Cruz as a 40 FV (Future Value) player. This means that if Cruz were to be theoretically placed in the MLB draft, he would be looked at as a 3rd to 5th-round type talent if we follow the grading scale used by FanGraphs Eric Longenhagen.
A look at new #Padres 17-year-old RHP Humberto Cruz who was signed on the international market today. This video is when he was 16 and consistently throwing in the low 90s.
📸 Tik Tok chapuat9 pic.twitter.com/khyG525k9u
— James E. Clark 3 (@EVT_JClark) January 16, 2024
Despite being 17 years of age, Cruz has touched 93-94 mph on his fastball, and while that isn’t something that is unheard of in this age of baseball, it’s still explosive and a clear weapon for the young pitcher. With the previously mentioned 6-foot-2 frames, the fastball velocity and arm speed will only continue to trend upward as time goes on.
Cruz also claims ownership of two promising and equally impressive off-speed mixes of a curveball and changeup to tag along with the electric fastball. But what is perhaps the most impressive about the pitcher is his ability to pitch with command and in the zone.
This trait is perhaps best evidenced by his performance on May 9 vs. South Korea in the U-18 WBSC. Cruz, who at the time was still only 16 years old, worked four innings, striking out two and allowing just two hits vs. a South Korean team that would go on to take home third place in the WBSC.
It would take just 57 pitches for Cruz to work four innings, and of those 57 pitches, 37 would be strikes. Suitable for a 64% strike percentage and an average of just 14 pitches per inning. It is an effective and efficient outing on a rather large stage.
With Cruz being just 17, it goes without saying he is far from a finished product. It will be a decent period of time before we could see him in the majors, but based on early predictability and profile he appears to be an excellent young international sign for San Diego.
I’m a proud San Diegan by birth and have lived here in San Diego for most of my life. For college I attended Sonoma State University, where I received my bachelor’s degree in communications; following my graduation, I returned home to San Diego, where I have worked in the local San Diego media sports scene since 2020.