Pittsburgh Pirates: Oneil Cruz Breakout Prospect of 2018

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates have not had a big-time breakout prospect in many years. They may have had one this season at Low-A.

If one goes back over the last few years the Pittsburgh Pirates have seen their farm system go from one of the tops in baseball to more of a middle of the road organization.  The main reason is that the team has seen a lot of their prospects graduate to the big league level.  However, another reason is that the team has not had any real big, breakout prospects.  The Pittsburgh Pirates really have not had one since Gregory Polanco burst onto the scene back in 2012 with the West Virginia Power.

Along with Polanco in 2012, infielder Alen Hanson also had a break out with the Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate the West Virginia Power.  Well, both teams saw another infield prospect breakout and place himself inside the Pittsburgh Pirates top prospects.  Shortstop Oneil Cruz was the team’s breakout prospect in 2018.

The Pittsburgh Pirates received Cruz in a trade during the 2017 season.  The team flipped lefty reliever Tony Watson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two prospects, including Cruz and Angel German. At the time, it seemed the Pittsburgh Pirates received two lottery tickets for Watson.  German has a power arm that can reach the upper 90s but needs a lot of polishing. Cruz was only 18 at the time, stood at 6’6” and had a lot of raw potential.

Well, Oneil Cruz has already made the Tony Watson trade look like a great deal.  Cruz broke out this season in a big way and looks like he could be a potential top 100 prospect as soon as next year. Cruz played exclusively at Low-A West Virginia for the Power.  In all, Cruz played in 103 games as he got hurt for the last month of the season.  Cruz posted a slash line of .286/.343/.488 with 14 home runs and 46 total extra-base hits.

His 2RC+ was well over 100 sitting at 134 with a .201 ISO.  Also, Cruz dropped his strikeout rate from the previous season.  With the Dodgers in most of 2017, Cruz was striking out 29 percent of the time.  This year, Cruz only struck out 22 percent of the time while walking about the same amount as the previous year at 7.0 percent. This made him go from a middle ranked prospect (12-16) to a top six prospect in the organization.

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Cruz is now entering his age 20 season and will start at High-A Bradenton next season with the chance to make it up to Double-A.  The biggest point of interest in Cruz is how young and projectable he is compared to other 20-year-olds.  He is 6’6” and has a ton of offensive potential.  He showed that this year when he raised his power numbers and his on-base numbers but still cut down on his swing and misses.  Hopefully, Cruz can build on his impactful 2018 season and keep climbing up the prospect charts.