Cubs prospect Oscar De La Cruz has been hit with an eighty-game suspension, per a league announcement. He tested positive for the same banned masking agent/diuretic, furosemide, that led to the recent suspension of Robinson Cano.
Entering the season, De La Cruz was seen as a prospect to watch, with an intriguing combination of size, stuff, and command. MLB.com rated him third among Cubs farmhands, in fact, after seeing him turn in a dozen solid starts at the High-A level in 2017. Though he didn’t carry forward the gaudy strikeout numbers he showed in the prior season, and missed a lot of time with arm issues, De La Cruz had worked to a strong 3.46 ERA in 54 2/3 innings with 7.7 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9.
Now 23, De La Cruz opened the 2018 campaign at the Double-A level after being added to the 40-man roster in the fall to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He hasn’t really generated the results that might have been hoped for over his first 16 starts in the upper minors, though. Over 77 1/3 innings, he carries a 5.24 ERA while recording 73 strikeouts and giving out 31 walks.
It certainly seemed promising that De La Cruz was able to take the ball for the first half of the current campaign, even if he wasn’t exactly thriving. Now, though, he’ll face yet more questions about his future. In the near-term, De La Cruz will miss out on developmental opportunities for the rest of the 2018 season, though perhaps he’ll be a candidate to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. He’ll also again end up with a limited innings tally.
For a Cubs team that is no doubt considering possible mid-season acquisitions, the temporary loss of De La Cruz weakens the upper-level prospect base from which it may need to deal. That’s all the more worrying given that the organization already lost fellow hurler Adbert Alzolay for the season due to injury.