Pittsburgh Pirates: Making the Case to Move Oneil Cruz to Right Field
While highly touted slugging prospect Oneil Cruz has always played infield during his minor league career, there is a case to be made for the Pittsburgh Pirates to move him to right field
The Pittsburgh Pirates have several key decisions to make this upcoming season, and one of the more important issues is what to do with highly touted prospect Oneil Cruz. Currently, he is still slated to be the shortstop for the Double-A affiliate, the Altoona Curve, but that could and should change quickly.
Right now the Pittsburgh Pirates. have a crowded middle infield when it comes to highly touted prospects. This includes players such as Liover Peguero, Nick Gonzales, Cole Tucker and Ji-Hwan Bae. This leaves little to no room for for Cruz and his less than stellar defense to stay in the middle infield.
In Dominican Winter League play for the Gigantes del Cibao, Cruz has been costing his team dearly with errors this season. In 13 games he has been charged with six throwing errors. This brings his fielding percentage down to .880, which is certainly less than stellar. The most costly of all of these was a throw that could have resulted in a game ending double play. Instead, it was thrown wide of first and led to a Gigantes loss.
While moving Cruz to right field may not fix this fielding problem, it would open up a faster track to the Majors. Currently, the Pirate outfield options for 2021 consists of Bryan Reynolds, Anthony Alford, Gregory Polanco and Jared Oliva. Below these MLB players the only prospect that is remotely close to coming up to the Big Leagues is former first-round pick Travis Swaggerty.
On top of this thin outfield Polanco was rumored to be trade bait before he got injured during Dominican Winter League play, so he is not expected to be with the team much longer than this upcoming season. This leaves a hole for a great power hitter, but average level fielder, such as Cruz to step up and fill in.
Last season, the Pittsburgh Pirates experimented with putting Tucker in the outfield. So it would not be a surprise to see something similar happen to Cruz this year. Esepcially since with Cruz, unlike Tucker, his long term home may be best served in right field and not at shortstop.