Pittsburgh Pirates: Oneil Cruz Should be Promoted to Triple-A

BRADENTON, FLORIDA - MARCH 02: Oneil Cruz #61 of the Pittsburgh Pirates reacts prior to the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Detroit Tigers during a spring training game at LECOM Park on March 02, 2021 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
BRADENTON, FLORIDA - MARCH 02: Oneil Cruz #61 of the Pittsburgh Pirates reacts prior to the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Detroit Tigers during a spring training game at LECOM Park on March 02, 2021 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /
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Oneil Cruz is one of the highest ceiling prospects that the Pittsburgh Pirates have and it’s time for him to be promoted to the Triple-A level

The Pittsburgh Pirates have one of the most highly touted farm systems in all of baseball. One of the top prospects in this system is shortstop Oneil Cruz. Off to a hot start at Double-A Altoona, it is time for Cruz to be promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Throughout his minor league career there have always been questions about both Cruz’s defense and his bat. This is despite his sky high potential as a hitter. Despite struggling mightily this season defensively at shortstop, there have been no questions about Cruz’s bat.

Entering the seasons there were questions about Cruz’s contact tool. While his 23.7% strikeout rate is a tick or two higher than you would like to see, it is the second-lowest of his professional career. So, Cruz has been able to improve his contact rate this season.

An increase contact rate has led to nothing but success at the plate for Cruz. Through his first 131 plate appearances of the season for the Curve, Cruz owns a .305/.369/.593 slash line. His isolated slugging is a health .288, to go with a 158 wRC+, 8 home runs and an extra base hit rate of 12.2%.

This is career high batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and ISO for Cruz. He is also on pace to shatter his former career best home run total of 14 that he hit back during the 2018 season.

With Cruz crushing Double-A pitching, it is time for him to be promoted to the Triple-A level. Cruz could also make an impact for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. While his long-term home may not be at shortstop, Kevin Newman’s .204/.246/.251 slash line and 39 wRC+ this season leaves a lot to be desired.

Newman’s struggles are nothing new. In his MLB career he now owns a .262/.309/.354 slash line to go with a 74 wRC+, as well as being one of the worst hitters in MLB in terms of hard-hit rate, ground ball rate and exit velocity since he made his MLB debut in 2019.

Shortstop aside, there are opportunities for Cruz to crack the Major League roster for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. There have long been rumors of Cruz moving to the outfield, which included him playing in the outfield this past Spring Training, and with the Pirates struggling to get consistent success out of both left and right field, Cruz could work his way toward earning ABs at the corner outfield positions.

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Regardless of where he would go afterward, it is time for Cruz to be promoted to the Triple-A level.    In 423 PAs across 103 games played at the Double-A level dating back to 2019, Cruz has hit for a .300/.360/.512 slash line to go with a 148 wRC+, .211 ISO, 16 home runs and an extra base hit rate of 10.2%. It’s time for Cruz to get his first taste fo Triple-A pitching.

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