The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Omar Cruz last offseason in the Joe Musgrove trade. Viewed as a pitcher with back end of the rotation/bullpen swingman potential, Cruz put together a strong minor league season in 2021.
The 22-year-old lefty pitched 99.1 innings in 21 starts this past season. 7 of these 21 starts came at the High-A level while the other 14 came with the Double-A Altoona Curve. Cruz posted a solid 3.44 ERA, to go with a 4.28 FIP, 8.6% walk rate and a 23.4% strikeout rate in his 99.1 innings of work. He also limited opposing batters to just 10 home runs (0.91 HR/9).
Any team that is intrigued by Cruz could take a gamble on him and attempt to stash him away in their bullpen for the 2022 season. Remember, players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on the roster of the team that selected them for the entirety of the season or else they must work out a trade with the team they were selected from in order to keep them.
Cruz, like Mitchell, is a player who is knocking on the door of MLB. With a likely 2022 debut in the cards regardless of what happens with Cruz and the Rule 5 Draft, it is not hard to envision a team giving him an opportunity.
It is likely that the Pirates left Cruz unprotected due to pitchers who do not have plus to elite stuff often times going unselected in the Rule 5 Draft. While this appears to be a gamble the Pirates are willing to bet on working out in their favor, Cruz is still a prospect that they could lose in the Rule 5 Draft without it coming as a surprise.