The Pittsburgh Pirates brought in a ton of pitching prospects through trades this year. One of them was left-handed pitcher Omar Cruz.
The Pittsburgh Pirates got a five player prospect package for Joe Musgrove from the San Diego Padres and New York Mets. While many turned their attention to outfielder Hudson Head and catcher Endy Rodriguez, one pitcher they got back has so far been outstanding in the minor leagues. That pitcher is left-handed starting pitcher Omar Cruz.
Cruz was signed out of Mexico during the July 2017 international signing period. The southpaw made his professional debut in 2018 where he tossed 42.1 innings with the Padres rookie-ball and Low-A affiliates. All told, he pitched to the tune of a 1.96 ERA, 2.36 FIP and 1.32 WHIP. Cruz, impressively, allowed no home runs while having a 32.2% strikeout rate. He did struggle with control at times with a 12% walk rate.
During 2019, Cruz pitched with their Low-A affiliate again but made it to High-A by the end of the season. He pitched a total of 56 innings, showing the impressive home run suppression skills one again allowing just one home run. Cruz’s control improved a notable amount as his walk rate dropped to just 8.2% while keeping a similar strikeout rate (32.8%). Cruz’s bottom line consisted of a 2.73 ERA, 1.96 FIP and 1.16 WHIP.
Cruz isn’t a particularly overpowering pitcher. His four seam fastball only averages out in the lower-90s, however, is still a pitch that he can use. It’s seen as a 50-grade offering by MLB Pipeline. He also throws a curveball and change up to go with his fastball.
Of the three pitches in his repertoire, Cruz’s curveball is his best pitch. According to MLB Pipeline, Cruz throws his curveball with “big, top-to-bottom shape.” Pipeline sees this offering as a 55-grade pitch. His change up, which is seen as a 50-grade offering by MLB Pipeline, offers a bit of deception as he can throw it with fastball-like arm speed. Pipeline also adds that each offering is distinct enough for him to use effectively.
Cruz attacks the strike zone with all three pitches. Plus, he can throw all three pitches with a good feel. He stands at 6-foot 200 pounds. While he isn’t a hard thrower right now, adding a few ticks of velocity isn’t out of the question for Cruz.
What Cruz’s role with the Pittsburgh Pirates is in the future could still be in the air. Right now, he projects as a back-end starting pitcher. Obviously, that doesn’t mean he’ll be bad and the team could always use a good number four starting pitcher. However, he’s also ranked as the Bucs’ 10th best pitcher. While he might not be very high ranked as a pitcher in the Bucs’ system, he’s the best young southpaw the Pittsburgh Pirates have. The other nine pitchers who rank above him on MLB Pipeline’s Pirates top 30 list are right-handers.
The bullpen could also be the route Cruz goes down. In the bullpen, Cruz may see an uptick in velocity which could make his strikeout rate more sustainable. This would also help his curveball play up. If he can prove he can handle more higher leverage moments, then he could be a set-up man or even closer.
Cruz has so far been a great pitcher in the minors. He’s also the only left-handed Pirate pitching prospect to be ranked in the top 30 on MLB Pipeline. The 2021 season will be his age-22 season, so he could be in the majors in the next year.