Oneil Cruz Works On Paths To Pittsburgh
The Pirates believe Oneil Cruz can be a shortstop in the major leagues.
That didn’t stop them from giving him a look in center field at spring training.
The experiment started early, when a few player development staff members mentioned to Pirates general manager Ben Cherington that Cruz looked like a natural when shagging fly balls in the outfield during batting practice.
“I don’t think there’s anything we’ve seen from Oneil, metrically or observationally, that tells us he can’t play shortstop in the big leagues, even though he looks different than most major league shortstops,” Cherington said. “We believe he can.
"Bigger than that, we want to give him the best chance to make a difference for the Pirates in the major leagues.”
Cruz stands 6-foot-7 with an athletic frame. He would be one of the tallest players at any position in the majors. His bat is what makes him a potential impact player, with what Cherington described as “huge bat speed” and “huge raw power.”
“He has all of the raw ingredients to be a really good hitter—an impact hitter—and have power,” Cherington said. “He’s shown in the minor leagues that his swing decisions and contact are pretty good, too. So it’s not just raw tools. There’s some good data to back it up.”
Cherington added that practice and game reps would be important for Cruz, noting that he’s had just half a season at Double-A in 2019, before the lost minor league season in 2020. Cruz was also involved in motor vehicle collision in the Dominican Republic over the offseason in which three people died.
“He’s been fully cooperative with everything he’s had to be cooperative with in the aftermath of the accident,” Cherington said. “And then I think his preferred response in what we’re helping him and supporting him on is to pour his energy into his game.”
Cruz will begin the year in the upper levels of the minors, likely working on paths to the majors from shortstop and center field.
— Top prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes started the season with a home run, and finished his first series on the injured list with a left wrist injury. Hayes had already resumed fielding practice and wasn't expected to miss a lot of time.
— Righthander Luis Oviedo, a Rule 5 pick from the Indians organization, looked good in his first two big league appearances. Oviedo displayed a fastball averaging 96 mph, and had touched as high as 99, along with a curveball and slider that both have generated swinging strikes, helping him to five strikeouts through three innings. His early success indicates that it will be easy to protect the 21-year-old on the rebuilding Pirates.