What Should You Expect From Oneil Cruz In The Future?
By Noah Wright
One of the Pittsburgh Pirates’top prospects is shortstop Oneil Cruz. But in the future, what should you expect from the slugger?
Shortstop Oneil Cruz is one of the top prospects in all of baseball. According to Fangraphs, he ranks as the 32nd best prospect and 2nd best in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. But that’s for a good reason. Cruz has some real talent in his bat.
Last year at High-A Bradenton, Cruz hit .301/.345/.501 with 7 home runs and a 154 wRC+ in 145 plate appearances. Across 500 plate appearances, he would have hit 24 long balls. Although he didn’t hit for as much power once he moved to Double-A, he showed a decent amount of improvement with his plate discipline.
Overall he had a .269/.346/.412 line in 136 plate appearances. After walking just 5.5% of the time at Bradenton, Cruz was walking at an 11% rate with the Altoona Curve. However, it’s likely that after recovering from a fractured foot, Cruz’s power wasn’t exactly at 100%. This is all after a 2018 season where he batted .285/.343/.488 with 14 long balls, a 134 wRC+, and 11 stolen bags in 443 plate appearances.
Regardless, Cruz’s power should bounceback. Cruz is considered a top tier slugger. In terms of game power, the 6’7 lefty has a 30 current grade, but 60 future grade. His raw power grade is an outstanding 70 with a future of 80. 80 is as high of a grade you can get, and it is represented in his exit velocity. Cruz had a 91 MPH exit velocity. In comparison, the MLB average was 87.5 MPH. 42 MLB batters had an exit velo of 91 MPH or higher. Many of the names that sit in the 91-92 MPH range are Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, J.D. Martinez, and Shin-Soo Choo.
Oneil Cruz is currently an average shortstop with a well above-average arm. Fangraphs gives him a 40 current/45 future fielding grade, but an 80 arm grade. Like with his raw power, 80 is the highest you can get on the grading scale, making him one of the premier power prospects in all of minor league baseball. Cruz also isn’t slow either. Although he has a future speed grade of 45, he currently sits at 60. Plus he has stolen double-digit bags the past 2 years.
Where Cruz’s final position is is currently up in the air. If the many shortstop prospects the PIttsburgh Pirates have don’t turn out, then Cruz will likely take over the position. But that’s a very big if as the Pirates have about a half-dozen top shortstop prospects, not including Oneil. Many, including me, think his final position is right field. After all, he has the speed, and arm to play the position. Plus his bat also plays right field as well.
But what should you expect once he makes the majors? Currently, his ETA is about 2021 according to MLB Pipeline. But with the uncertainty of a minor league season, a more realistic ETA is probably 2022 or 2023.
I think Cruz could be very comparable to Carlos Gonzalez’s time with the Colorado Rockies. In 10 seasons and 5069 plate appearances, Gonzalez hit .290/.349/.516 227 home runs, and 118 stolen bases. Gonzalez averaged 25-30 home runs a season, something that Cruz could do even without Coors, and averaged 12-15 stolen bases a season.
Even defensively I think Cruz could be like Gonzalez. Gonzalez’s time in Colorado included +5 defensive runs saved, a 15.2 UZR, 2.0 UZR/150, and 1.1 range runs above average. Overall good, but not Andruw Jones like numbers. But Carlos had 10.9 arm runs above average and was considered a very strong-armed outfielder during his time in the majors, and maybe the strongest arm Colorado Rockie of all time.