The Pittsburgh Pirates recently promoted one of their top prospects to Double-A. After a slow starting, he is starting to heat up.
One of the best trades Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington has made in recent years came back in 2017. The team was out of the playoff hunt and decided to deal away some of their pending free agents. At the time the trade did not catch any national headlines, it has quickly turned into a steal for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
On July 31st, 2017, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded veteran left-handed reliever Tony Watson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for two young prospects by the names of Oneil Cruz and Angel German. Cruz was the headliner in the deal, being rated a top 20 prospect in the Dodgers system. On top of that, he was a shortstop who stood at 6’6” and obviously had power potential. Meanwhile, German represented an intriguing power arm that needed to be reigned in.
Oneil Cruz has quickly turned into the prize of the deal. When the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired him, he was just 18 years of age and hitting a mediocre .240 after a strong previous season. After putting up similar numbers in the Bucs organization at Low-A, the team decided to have Cruz repeat Low-A at the start of 2018.
The move paid off for Cruz and the Pittsburgh Pirates and he turned in a much more impressive 2018 batting .286 and hitting 14 home runs. The Pittsburgh Pirates started him at High-A this season and unfortunately he did not get off to the start anyone had hoped. Just a few games into the season, Cruz fouled a ball off his foot and fractured it.
That did not slow the big shortstop down and once he came back, he hit the ground running. This year for the Marauders Cruz posted a slash line of .301/.345/.515 with seven home runs in just 35 games of play. The now 20-year-old really showed why he jumped up inside the Pittsburgh Pirates top five prospects this year. In fact, this performance put him in many of the mid-season Top 100 Prospect lists.
The Pittsburgh Pirates decided to promote Cruz to Double-A Altoona about three weeks ago. He got off to a slow start batting under .200 through his first seven games with the Curve. However, things have really improved for Cruz lately. He has slowly raised his average over the last eight games and is now batting a strong .294/.339/.451 with two doubles, three triples, and six runs batted in. He is still waiting for his first Double-A home run.
With the way Cruz has heated up of late, his first home run could be right around the corner. The big shortstop is now considered a top three prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates system and is quickly going up prospect boards. Realistically speaking, Cruz could be up with the Pittsburgh Pirates by this point next year if he stays healthy and continues to produce.
*Numbers entering play on August 14