Pittsburgh Pirates News: Oneil Cruz Optioned to Triple-A

In a move that was not unexpected, but still a major disappointment, the Pittsburgh Pirates have optioned top hitting prospect Oneil Cruz to Triple-A as he will start the season in the minor leagues

Entering spring training it was going to be almost impossible for Oneil Cruz to crack the Opening Day roster of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cruz has done nothing but turn heads throughout his time in the Pirate organization. This included him going 3-for-9 with a home run in his two MLB games last September.

This spring, Cruz continued to turn heads. He was 5-for-15 at the plate, slugging a pair of home runs. He routinely hit the ball with well above MLB average exit velocity rates including a pair of balls hit over 113 MPH. Only three Pirate hitters in the stat cast era have hit multiple balls over 113 MPH. To reiterate, Cruz did it twice this spring.

You then factor in Cruz’s position – shortstop. While Kevin Newman, the incumbent at the position, is coming off the best defensive season of his career, he was never a good defender before last season. Additionally, outside of his 2019 MLB rookie season, he has never been a good hitter in his professional career.

All of this leads to fans wanting Cruz starting the season as the team’s shortstop. Too be honest, this should have been a no brainer move. There is zero reason for Cruz not to be the team’s starting shortstop.

Well… Cruz has been optioned to Triple-A. No matter how the Pittsburgh Pirates try to spin this it is due to service time. By having Cruz start the season at Triple-A the Pirate gain an extra year of team control. Well, that is, as long as Cruz is not a finalist for National League Rookie of the Year. Ya know, the same award he is currently the odds on favorite to win.

Pirate fans have every right to be outraged over this. Cruz would be arguably the team’s second best player already behind Bryan Reynolds and he will be starting the season at Triple-A along side Roansy Contreras, who would be hands down the team’s best starting pitcher right now.

Service time rules in MLB are a joke. MLB teams manipulating it and failing to field their best rosters possible as a result is an even bigger joke. Even though everyone knew this move was coming it does not making it any less frustrating.

In addition to Cruz being optioned to Triple-A the Pirates have re-assigned pitchers Cam Alldred and Beau Susler to minor league camp. With these moves the Pirates now have 40 players remaining in MLB camp.