Pittsburgh Pirates 2020 Prospect Watch: Cristopher Cruz

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates need to start developing quality starting pitching prospects.  There is one international signing from 2019 that could be their next top pitching prospect.

One of the many downfalls of the Pittsburgh Pirates previous Front Office was their inability to acquire/develop elite prospects.  Former General Manager Neal Huntington and staff poured a lot of their amateur resources into starting pitching.  Yet, they do not have any real starters to boast about.

Last summer the team added a very intriguing pitching prospect to their system via the International market.  Neal Huntington and staff made one of their biggest International signings in his tenure, along with one of the highest-rated pitching prospects they have ever signed from Latin America.  The Bucs brought in right-handed starter Cristopher Cruz.

The team signed Cruz for a large bonus of $850,000 out of the Dominican Republic.  He was ranked as MLB Pipeline’s 20th best prospect, which is exactly where FanGraphs had him ranked as well.  Overall, Cruz ranked as FanGraphs top available pitching prospect but ranked as the third best pitcher on MLB Pipeline.

Cruz is all about projectability, which is obvious as he is just 16 years old.  He will be 17 when next season starts and will have a long way to go before making it to the actual Pittsburgh Pirates.  His fastball already hits the mid-90s and both his curveball and changeup have good movement and should be plus pitches.  His player comparison is that of Ervin Santana, who never reached his maximum potential, but put together a nice career.  Also, Cruz is very projectable standing at 6’3” and only weighing around 170 pounds, giving him plenty frame to grow into.

Cruz will likely start the year playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates Gulf Coast League affiliate.  This is considered “rookie ball” and where most first-year International prospects start their careers.  Cruz will be brought up as “the ace” through the minor league system if all goes right.  He will be the top pitching prospect for the team at the GCL level and will likely be the only organizational top 30 prospect at the level.

His season will not start until mid-summer, however.  The GCL has their players go to Extended Spring Training to continue to get lower pressure reps and practice before starting against opposing competition.  It will be interesting to see how one of the top International arms performs in-game action.

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Cristopher Cruz was brought in by the previous regime, one that struggled to find pitching, especially in the International Market.  Still, Cruz was unanimously considered to be one of the top prospects available last July.  There should be a high level of expectation for the young righty as his first professional season gets underway.  Hopefully Cruz develops into a top of the rotation type arm and can be paired with 2019 first-round Quinn Priester to make a formidable duo.

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