The Pirates have signed Dominican center fielder Michael de la Cruz for $700,000.
The bonus came as a surprise to some teams. De la Cruz, who turned 16 yesterday, is a lefty with a lean, medium frame at 6 feet, 175 pounds. De la Cruz ran average times in the 60-yard dash earlier in the year but he cut his time down to 6.7 seconds in recent months (though not showing that well home to first) for other teams and ran close to 6.5 seconds for the Pirates. Scouts have said de la Cruz gets good jumps off the bat and shows good instincts in center field. The Pirates have called his arm above-average, though other teams before July 2 graded his arm out at a 45-50 on the 20-80 scale with a long, slow release.
At the plate, de la Cruz has a wide setup and a quick, handsy swing, though he doesn't have much power right now. He is from Santo Domingo and trained with Raul Valera, who is known in the Dominican Republic as "Banana." Last year Valera's shortstop, Eliezer Alvarez, signed with the Cardinals for $425,000 when Pirates Latin American supervisor Juan Mercado was with St. Louis.
When the international signing period opened last week, the Pirates also signed Dominican third baseman Julio de la Cruz (no relation to Michael), the No. 16 international prospect for July 2, for $700,000.
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