Because of Oneil Cruz’s slow start to 2022, could infield prospect Rodolfo Castro recieve a promotion before the top slugging prospect?
The big hyped-up player this year for the Pittsburgh Pirates is Oneil Cruz. He’s a 6’7″, 220-pound shortstop who has the most power potential among all minor leaguers and a solid hit tool to go with it. Pirate shortstops this year have combined for an abysmal 68 wRC+ and -.3 fWAR, albeit in a small sample size. But Cruz is starting the season ice cold. On the other hand, infield prospect Rodolfo Castro is on fire.
Cruz only has seven hits through his first 46 plate appearances and a sub-.600 OPS. He’s struck out 13 times so far, but on the plus side, he has six walks, leading to a 13% walk rate. It’s a bit disappointing given how much he improved in 2021, his outstanding brief cameo at Indy last season, and how great he looked in his first few MLB games.
Then there’s Castro. Castro had 12 hits through his first 52 plate appearances. Of those 12 hits, he has had three doubles, a triple, and a home run. Not only is he getting hits, but he’s drawing walks. He also is getting on base a ton, considering he has 11 walks. Another positive is he only has 11 strikeouts. Castro’s OPS is now approaching 1.000 after Thursday’s game, where he went 1-for-3 with a double,
Now granted, we are looking at small sample sizes. Both have yet even to play 15 games. Cruz’s start to the season is slow, but it’s nothing to worry about. He had a .686 OPS and 86 wRC+ through his first 72 plate appearances last season. Castro ended his tenure with the Altoona Curve by posting a negative wRC+ through his final 96 plate appearances.
But Cruz’s slow start and Castro’s blazing hot start could open the door for the latter, at least for now. Castro did phenomenal at Triple-A last year in his first small sample size and has continued to hit. Plus, he showed a ton of power in the Majors. While that’s not to discredit what Cruz did at three different levels last year or to say his 2022 debut has been pushed back past May and into June, the Pirates might be more flexible about calling up Castro.
After all, Castro isn’t one of the team’s best prospects like Oneil is, and the Pittsburgh Pirates were willing to give Diego Castillo, another infield prospect with similar rankings, an Opening Day roster spot. With Castro’s red hot start, Cruz’s poor start, and Castro’s prospect status, it’s very possible they end up at least giving Castro a look before letting Cruz take over a regular line-up spot sometime during early May.