Editor’s Note: Attribution for the Kyle Stark quote has been added to this story since it was first published.
The Pirates finally got their man when they traded for Oneil Cruz.
The Pirates had serious interest in Cruz in 2015 when he was a Dominican amateur. However, he signed with the Dodgers for $950,000.
The 18-year-old Cruz showed why the Pirates liked him so much during his first few days in the organization. Assigned to low Class A West Virginia, the 6-foot-6, 175-pound lefthanded batter went 9-for-27 (.333) with two home runs in his first seven games.
“He’s a very long-levered athlete who has quality raw power,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “He hits the ball about as hard as anybody we have in our system right now.
“He’s growing into his body. He shot from 6-1 to 6-6 in a very short period of time, but he’s the good old-fashioned run-and-throw athlete who . . . has quality raw power. He was very intriguing to us.”
After making his pro debut last year in the Dominican Summer League and being ranked as the organization’s No. 27 prospect, Cruz moved aggressively to low Class A Great Lakes to begin this season.
In 89 games in the Midwest League, he hit just .240/.293/.342 with eight home runs in 89 games.
The Pirates initially wondered if Cruz might have been in a bit over his head playing in a full-season league. However, it didn’t take long after the trade to realize that wasn’t the case.
“I think one of the things we continue to try to look at is, are guys at the right level, rather than are they better than the level?” assistant general manager Kyle Stark told PiratesProspects.com. “Are they at the level where they’re getting stretched and being challenged without being overmatched?
“That certainly seems to be the case with (Cruz) in terms of both his abilities and his sense of confidence.”
• The 21-year-old German was assigned to West Virginia after recording a 1.91 ERA and seven saves in 33 innings over 21 appearances at Great Lakes. The Dodgers signed German out of the Dominican Republic in 2013.
John Perrotto is a writer based in Beaver County, Pa.