Oneil Cruz, SS, PIT

When you are this tall, you shouldn’t be playing SS, and yet…

Video courtesy of Prospects Live
  • Born: October 4, 1998
  • B/T: L/R
  • 6’7″, 210-lbs
  • Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic

The Numbers

His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:

He’s been moving up slowly, but doing so mostly as a teenager, so the Pirates have been in no rush.

Look back up above at his size. The kid is now 6’7″, and despite that weighs only 210 pounds. When you are that tall and your limbs are that lanky, your strike zone is huge and your body takes more movement to get into position, and yet he doesn’t strike out as much as you’d expect. And you wouldn’t figure he’d draw as many walks as he does, but he does draw a decent number of walks.

The power is real, and just imagine what that power will be like when he starts to fill in that frame!

Did I mention his stolen base rate is increasing as he climbs the minors? Did I mention his OBP has been improving as he faces tougher and tougher pitching?

He it .296/.350 against righties at Class A Advanced, and then he hit .292/.350 against righties at Double-A. Nice.

He hits lefties well too. Very nice.

Wow. That power is real, not just pull, but opposite field, all fields, whatever you got, Cruz will hit it there.

Here we see the Pirates getting Cruz in trade at the A level, and they stuck him there for the rest of 2017. He did OK, but they realized he was still quite young for that level, so they repeated him at A in 2018. He rewarded them with progress. And injured foot early in 2019 held him back, but when he returned to the field he again pushed to the .900 OPS level, but this time in Class A Advanced. So off to AA he went, and he finally ran out of gas. Running out of gas for Cruz means drifting down to a mere .800 OPS…

If the Pirates are consistent, he will probably go back to AA, master it, and then reach AAA as a 21-year-old. The kid has always been young for his level, and if he makes it to the majors as a 22-year-old, or even 23, he will be plenty young there too.

The Scouts

Warnings

We keep waiting for him to show he cannot play shortstop at his height, and he keeps playing at shortstop and showing the Pirates there is no reason to move him. That said, there is always the chance that he will outgrow the position and move to 3B (or even RF).

Will he start striking out too much in the higher levels? Look at what Aaron Judge goes through with his expanded strike zone, and that might be what Cruz will experience.

Conclusion

The scouts are unanimous: this is a Top 100 talent, if not a Top 50 talent. He simply keeps improving, and once that frame fills in with muscle, we are going to be looking at 80 grade power.

With a good batting eye, and a bit of speed as well, playing a premium position, Cruz is a must-add for fantasy play. He could become a star.

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