Before I get to my scouting report on Rhiner Cruz, I feel the need to introduce myself. My name is Chris Blessing and I've been writing about prospects for the past 4 seasons under various handles, at various sites. In fact, some of my work has been linked and discussed here, specifically my piece on Paul Clemens, which I contributed at my friend's website, Scouting the Sally.
If you asked me last off season if I thought Rhiner Cruz would be selected in the Rule V draft, I would have probably laughed at you. When I first saw him in 2009, I thought he was trying to do his best Jesus Colome impersonation. For those who don't remember, Jesus Colome was a hard throwing right hander who was a top prospect in the Rays organization. Although Colome ended up with over 300 major league appearances, he never captured the promise he showed in 2000 and 2001, when he was ranked in Baseball America's top 100. He was plagued by poor command that was a result of sloppy mechanics, specifically an inconsistent release point. Now, Rhiner doesn't have the tools (plus pitches) Colome had; however, Rhiner does feature the plus velocity, the inconsistent release point and the poor command that made Colome famous.
Cruz primarily throws from a 3/4's arm angle. He likes to variate his arm angle to try to create deception, which is the primarily root to all of his inconsistencies. I blame this for his command issues and his inability to develop a quality secondary pitch. He has always been a hard thrower, topping out at 95 MPH as a 22 year old in 2009. Since then, I've heard his top velocity has ticked up a bit and I'm not surprised by the talk of him hitting triple digits in the Dominican League. He works best now throwing in the mid 90s, where he can command his fastball and his pitches don't flatten out. His slider was below average in 2009 and my contact in the Florida State League told me it wasn't any better in 2011. It is more like a slurve than a true Slider and lacks the break to project it to be an average major league pitch.
I don't know much about your major league club. I don't know what your pen looks like. I do think, if his slider becomes an average offering, he has a chance to stick. Had he not been drafted, he would have been invited to big league camp this spring and probably sent back to Double A, with a realistic chance of a promotion to Triple A. I hope it works out for the Astros. I plan on keeping an eye on him and some of the other guys in your organization I've seen, like Clemens, Brett Oberholtzer, Jonathan Singleton & Telvin Nash. Also, look for some content on Astros prospects Chris Lee & Jamaine Cotton, two pitchers I caught while watching Greeneville this season. I drove up to NE Tennessee specifically to see Ariel Ovando and Mets prospect Juan Urbina. Of course, Ovando was sitting out with an injury.
Edit: My friend Mike Newman posted a write up on Fangraphs today on Rhiner Cruz. He probably has seen more of Cruz than anyone not employed by the Mets. http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/rule-5-draft-2011-rhiner-cruz-first-pick-houston-astros/