It’s pretty clear who’s going to start at shortstop for the Indians. Top slugging prospect Oneil Cruz will likely get the first crack at the position. Cruz spent a good portion of the season at Double-A where he hit .292/.346/.536 line, .377 wOBA, and 136 wRC+. He blasted 12 home runs while swiping 18 bases, and having a .244 ISO. Cruz put his power on display with many of his long balls being no-doubters.
Cruz’s first taste of Triple-A pitching was almost god-like. He only had 29 plate appearances but blasted 5 home runs with 11 total hits. He also drew 8 walks and only had 5 strikeouts. Now very small sample size, but how can you not be impressed by a 370 wRC+ in that sample size? Cruz was recently promoted to the big league club, so while I doubt he starts the year out at the major league level, you also can’t rule out the possibility, especially considering he went 3-9 with a home run and the 7th hardest hit ball in the Majors during 2021.
The other player with plenty of experience at shortstop who will likely get a start in 2022 at Triple-A is Ji-Hwan Bae. Bae manned the other side of second base with Cruz. He put up a very solid .278/.359/.413 line with a .343 wOBA, and 118 wRC+ in 365 plate appearances. Bae has elite-level speed and used it to swipe 20 bases. Plus he hit 7 home runs, 7 more than he hit in 2018 and 2019. Bae mainly played second base but has a ton of experience at shortstop. He may also get some time in the outfield. With so many middle infield prospects, the Pirates will have to accommodate somehow, and Bae has started to play some center field.
In the event that the Pittsburgh Pirates do decide to keep Cruz in the major leagues to start 2022, they have plenty of shortstop capable prospects. Most of the prospects I talked about for second base also hvae experience at shortstop. Like stated earlier, Bae also has plenty of experience at short despite mainly playing the keystone this year. Plenty of good and highly talented options to start 2022 at short for the Indians.