The 2022 season has not been a good one for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Currently sitting at 50-86 on the season, the Pirates are on pace for 103 losses. 103 losses would mark a step backward from what was a woeful 2021 season.
One of the few highlights of the 2022 season for the Pittsburgh Pirates has been shortstop Oneil Cruz. Since being promoted in June, Cruz has been hitting mammoth home runs and breaking StatCast.
Cruz has already set the major league record for the fastest throw ever by an infielder on a ground ball. He has flashed elite sprint speed and is the top three of MLB hitters in balls hit with an exit velocity over 110 MPH since being promoted. Cruz’s sky high, elite potential has been flashed with regularity since being promoted to the majors in late June.
The biggest issue for Cruz since his promotion has been the swing-and-miss. Some of this stemmed from a lack of aggressiveness at the right spot in at-bats. This is something that Cruz appears to have adjusted to, however, which has led to him finding more consistency at the plate.
In 69 plate appearances since August 18th, Cruz has hit for a .281/.333/.563 slash line with a 146 wRC+. He’s collected extra base hits at a strong 11.6% clip, has walked at a 7.2% rate, and has had an average exit velocity of 95.1 MPH, which is nearly 7 MPH higher than the league average. He also has a 23.1% barrel rate and a 43.6% hard hit rate during this stretch.
Cruz has still struggled with the strikeout during this stretch. During this strong three week stretch, Cruz has struck out at a 36.2% while his strikeout rate on the season is 36.9%. That said, Cruz will likely always be a hitter that strikes out at a high rate.
What’s been most important during this stretch is an improved contact rate. His contact rate has jumped to 68.7% in these 69 PAs. He’s also had a better eye at the plate, dropping his swing rate at pitches outside of the strike zone to 30%. Cruz is adjusting to the league and his results at the plate are showing it.
Over the course of the final three weeks of the season there will not be much for fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates to look forward to, but watching Cruz will be one of those few things. If Cruz can continue his strong stretch through the end of the season then the hype train will be full steam ahead into the offseason.