MLB Scout’s Video View: Analyzing Pirates Prospect Oneil Cruz

Image credit: Oneil Cruz (Photo by Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)

While the game is away, Baseball America is digging into its video database and asking scouts around the game to analyze what they see from some of the sport’s best prospects. Today’s subject is Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz.

By traditional baseball standards, Cruz is a unicorn. He’s a lanky 6-foot-7 with long arms and legs and tremendous power. Despite his size, he’s continued to show evaluators that he has a chance to play shortstop long-term. He missed part of the 2019 season with a right foot fracture, but still reached Double-A Altoona as a 20-year-old.

Acquired from the Dodgers in the trade that sent reliever Tony Watson to Los Angeles, Cruz smacked eight home runs and drove in 34 runs in 2019. He ranked No. 57 on this year’s Top 100 Prospects list. 

Cruz enters the year as the Pirates’ No. 3 prospect. You can find his full scouting report here.

Here our our previous installments: 

Miguel Amaya | Jo Adell | Luis Garcia | Nolan JonesBrandon Marsh

Here’s the video below, followed by what our scout had to say.


SCOUT: It’s not every day you see a legitimate 6-foot-7 guy stand at shortstop and think that he might actually have a chance to stick there. This guy controls his movements really well and has good hands and an easy plus arm. It really is amazing to watch the ease that this guy gets down on the baseball. However, I truly believe long-term he is going to have to move off the position. The most likely place to put him is right field with his plus arm and average running speed.

He still has yet to fill into his frame and if the speed backs up with size gains to the point that he can’t move well enough in the outfield, you know you have a guy with really good hands and big wingspan who can come in and play first base as a worst-case scenario situation.

Offensively, this guy has freakish power to all fields. He can drive the ball deep the other way without even trying and when he lets it eat and tries to pull the baseball, he hits the ball as hard and as far as pretty much anyone you want to see. He made the roller coaster in Altoona look like it was about 250 feet away during BP.

He has long arms and leverage to his swing, but that is also the major concern for me here. He has a hard time covering up the hole on the inner part of the zone. He becomes a cheat/guess hitter too frequently and is going to get exposed against upper-level pitching right now. He is very aggressive and chases outside of the zone.

This guy will get himself out too often and he is going to need to make strides with his approach, plate discipline and overall attack plan at the plate. You can’t shorten his arms, so he is going to have to adjust or else you can just blow him up inside with fastballs. Then, when he starts to cheat, slow him down away and he will chase. But be very careful here because he will kill you if you make a mistake.

This is more power over hit and I see him growing into his raw power as he continues to physically and mentally mature. I see too many holes to project him as a plus-type hitter, but he will hit enough to get to his power.

I see him as a 5-6 hole hitter who plays right-field long-term. I have him as a solid, everyday major league player but just do not see an all-star-caliber player here. There are too many holes and adjustments to make in the box to feel really strongly.

Hands down, one of the toughest players in baseball to scout in my opinion. He is a fun one to watch because he has the ability to show you something you haven’t seen before on any given play or swing but it’s just a little too inconsistent to go real big and think it will show up enough at the big league level to be the impact player that matches the loud tools. He’s a good everyday guy for me.

I think it’s only a matter of time until he learns what pitches he can drive, and I see him increasing the power numbers in time. He’s also a good baserunner who knows when to take the extra base and when to be aggressive. He should be able to steal bases as well because he is a plus runner.

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