Number 3 – Shortstop
Defensively, the Pittsburgh Pirates had shortstop on lockdown. Kevin Newman posted a +7 DRS, +3 outs above average, and a +7.6 UZR/150. He was a finalist for the Gold Glove and was a great defender up the middle. The issue was that he was an awful batter. Newman posted a .226/.265/.309 line with a .249 wOBA, and 54 wRC+. His OPS, wOBA, and wRC+ were all the league’s worst by fair margins.
We all know the Pirates have a ton of middle infield prospects, but among all of them, Oneil Cruz will likely be the starting shortstop for the Pirates for most of the 2021 season. Last season the towering infielder got his season started by posting a strong .292/.346/.536 line with a .377 wOBA, and 136 wRC+ at Double-A. Though once he reached Triple-A, Cruz went from a very hot batter to a god-like hitter. While it was still a very small sample size of 29 plate appearances, you can’t help but be extremely impressed by the fact he had 11 hits, 5 of which were home runs, and 8 walks.
Things got even better for Cruz as he even made his major league debut and played two games. It was only 2 games and 9 plate appearances, but Cruz golfed a ball well below the strike zone for a long home run and singled on a ball that was hit 118.2 MPH off the bat, the 7th hardest-hit ball all year. That’s something some of MLB’s most feared power hitters like Fernando Tatis Jr., Kyle Schwarber, Nelson Cruz, Juan Soto, and Yordan Alvarez didn’t top.
Cruz should be in the Majors by the end of April/beginning of May. Even beyond Cruz, the Pittsburgh Pirates have some near-ready quality options. Ji-Hwan Bae had a solid season at Double-A Altoona and will likely get things started at Triple-A Indianapolis. They have some other quality secondary options for shortstop like Rodolfo Castro and Hoy Park.