The Pittsburgh Pirates have played a lot of players who are expected to open the year with the club. Today, one of their top prospects will get a chance.
One thing that has changed over the last decade or so is how teams operate their Spring Training rosters. Teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates now use more prospects in Spring Training than ever before. This is for multiple reasons, like resting the veterans, getting a look at a guy who could help later in the year, or just to see how young players respond to the opportunity.
Today, the Pittsburgh Pirates are set to have one of their top hitting prospects in the starting lineup. For today’s game against the Detroit Tigers, Oneil Cruz will bat eighth and start as the team’s designated hitter. While it would be great to see Cruz get more chances in the field, it is good to see the Bucs are at least getting his bat in the lineup. Cruz has had two at-bats subbing into both games so far.
Cruz is one of the team’s more intriguing prospects. This offseason he was ranked as a consensus top five prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He has just about the highest ceiling as any prospect in baseball, but questions about his hit tool (swing and miss rate) hold him back from being in the top tier of the prospect rankings.
However, he is also considered a high risk prospect, meaning there is a high chance that he does not turn into the player the Pittsburgh Pirates hope. There are also questions about where he will end up defensively, although he has the athleticism and arm to make a positional change work. Still, this is not a knock on him, Cruz is a highly athletic player who has big time power.
Cruz is a top 100 prospect, so getting him as many at-bats as possible this Spring will be important. While it is unlikely that he will break Spring Training with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cruz will be one step away at Triple-A Indianapolis. Being at Triple-A and having an extended opportunity this Spring should give the Pittsburgh Pirates a good idea of where he is at in terms of being big league ready.