#32 – Shortstop Oneil Cruz
Oneil Cruz is the 32nd ranked prospect on FanGraphs the BOARD and is a top five shortstop prospect in baseball. Cruz was traded to the Pirates in the Tony Watson deal and was the perfect example of a high-risk, high-ceiling prospect. At 6’7″, the young, intentionally signed shortstop is starting to put things together and is turning into one of the most exciting prospects in all of baseball.
Last season, Cruz slashed .298/.356/.475 in High-A and Double-A with 11 stolen bases, showing great contact hitting and speed. But, more importantly, Cruz started to fill in his 6’7” frame, hitting eight home runs with a .475 slugging percentage. You can tell that this was a natural adjustment compared to an intentional attempt to find more power as Cruz also decreased his strike out rate from the previous year. With almost every offensive metric trending upwards, Cruz has clearly not reached his ceiling yet and could develop into a pure five-tool player.
Defensively, Cruz is still at shortstop, but could be moved to virtually any position around the field. According to FanGraphs and other scouts, Cruz’s arm strength is currently keeping him at shortstop, but below average lateral agility could force him to an outfield position or even first base. With just a half season under his belt at Double-A Altoona, a good year for Cruz would see him promoted to Triple-A halfway through the 2020 season, positioning himself to be on the Big League roster in 2021. In addition, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cruz played in the outfield during the 2020 season, as there is a current backlog of Pirates in the middle infield. Cruz’s bat is too good to keep down in the minors for any longer then it needs to be. That said, by the time he becomes a MLB regular, the National League will likely have the designated hitter.