Written by: Josh Weil
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SS/3B Oneil Cruz – 21 Years Old
Height 6-7 Weight 210 ETA: 2022
When the Pirates traded Tony Watson away, they acquired this truly one of a kind shortstop prospect. Oneil Cruz stands 6’7″ tall, but playing shortstop long term is not out of the question. While he is already 21, the Pirates should be in no rush to allow this gem to blossom into the star he has the potential to become. I am a sucker for prospects that break traditional molds for positions, and we have the poster boy of that right here.
Oneil Cruz is a minor league career .274 hitter, but he has the ability to hit to all fields. A lot of taller hitters have trouble getting the bat head in and pulling the ball with authority, but shown through his > 40% pull rate, and the spray chart below, he does not have these struggles. While he does not have great discipline, he has cut his strikeouts down slightly as his pro career has gone on. I see him sitting between .260 and .275 year in and year out as he continues to develop his discipline and swing at more strikes.
I think Cruz has the potential to be an incredible homerun hitting machine, but that will take some time to develop, as his body has continued to grow since he arrived on the pro ball scene. As he starts to bulk up, those doubles will turn to homers and teams will fear pitching to him. In 2019, he had an ISO of .213 in A-ball and .143 in Double-A. Mind you, these were only through 35 games a piece, it shows his power is still inconsistent. While he does need to increase his Line Drive Percentage, which was 16.7% last season.
Looking at his swing, he could utilize his figure a whole lot better. He has a nice swing, but it is missing the fluidity that successful major leaguers have. The top half and the bottom half are not in sync. I almost feel like he has to be recoached every year to this point but he kept growing so he cannot really get into a stride, and he still puts up numbers!
Cruz is an elite athlete in general, let alone at six feet seven inches. Even at that height, his athleticism allows shortstop to not be an unrealistic stop. With this height comes an inevitable long-term downturn in speed. He is not much of a threat to steal bases, but he does possess enough speed to not be a liability on the bases.
Fielding: 50/50 – Arm: 70/70
Cruz is a rarity this day in age, a big body who has the athleticism and arm to play shortstop. He has a Plus-Plus arm, with his normally sidearm delivery and I could see it becoming elite if he did someday try the outfield out where he has to throw from over the top. He’s around league-average for a shortstop aside from his cannon, and I do think he should get a chance to be a shortstop all the way through instead of expect him fit a mold that he will never be able to, because he should be able to perform anyway.
Oneil Cruz is one of my personal favorite prospects. He is a true anomaly and should bring a grin to the face of the Pirates faithful who are truly in need of something to smile about. As soon as he fills out, I think the sky is the limit for him. I think the Pirates being in no need to rush him to the Majors will play into his need for getting his upper and lower halves in sync, and as a result of that I see nothing short of All-Star appearances in his future.
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