Imagine a human being capable of hitting the ball as hard as Giancarlo Stanton, throwing the ball across the diamond harder than Carlos Correa, and running the bases as fast as Ronald Acuña Jr all of this at 6 FOOT 7 and playing one of the most demanding positions in baseball. Oneil Cruz is someone scouts have never seen before and could be the most electrifying player this league has seen if he can reach his full potential in Pittsburgh and so far he’s shown flashes of greatness.
July 31st, 2017 the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired left handed reliever Tony Watson from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Angel German and one Oneil Cruz. At the time the Dodgers added a much needed bullpen arm and Watson so far was pitching to a 3.66 ERA and a 4.70 FIP. On-route to their 2017 World Series run Watson pitched very well to the tune of a 2.59 ERA, 3.16 FIP, and a 55% GB%. Watson did the job he was brought in for but at the end of the day looking back it could have been a major mistake for the Dodgers front office looking into the future.
In July 2015 at the age of 16 years old, Oneil Cruz signed a international deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers with a signing bonus of nearly $950,000 and started his professional career in 2016 with the DSL Dodgers where he only got to play in 55 games before the 2017 season where he would end up getting traded. At the time of the trade Oneil Cruz was ranked 23rd in the Dodgers system and was unranked overall and was automatically slotted into the Pirates system at the rank of 14th. Then the rise started…
2018 was the breakout of Oneil Cruz and he tore the minors up ever since. Cruz slashed .286/.343/.488 with a 134 wRC+ and an INSANE .201 ISO (Isolated power) and this was all in Ametur Ball so you could obviously tell early the power surge will take over the Major Leagues. And with this season in A Ball Cruz made the jump up to 4th in the Pirates system and 96th overall in the MLB Pipeline and so far the Tony Watson trade is looking good for the Pirates.
The Pirates have been playing Cruz at 3rd in A Ball and so the Pirates finally moved Cruz to SS where he currently plays today at 6 foot 7. A man the size of Aaron Judge playing SS is insanely insane and people started picking up on the kid and hype finally is growing around him. 2019 showed Oneil 3 levels of Minor League ball with 3 games of Rookie Ball where they decided he was already too good for that where in 11 PA he had a 283 wRC+. Then guess what? He tortured Single A ball as well where in 35 games he had a line of .301/.345/.515 with a 154 wRC+, .391 wOBA, .374 BABIP, .213 ISO, and 7 HR. But the problem with Cruz early has always been his Strikeout problem and through Single A he had a 26% K% and a 5.5% BB% and that’s straight up awful. Double A was a little step down in the same amount of games but still a very impressive outing with a 120 wRC+ but one of the more improving things was the increase in BB% from 5.5% to 11% and cutting down the K% by 2% so you can see he was making the improvements needed and was making the major league steps.
COVID really made it hard on every organization and front offices didn’t know how their prospects will do with this down time and will they see a decline in their performances. So do you think Oneil was affected? Absolutely not. The word around Cruz has been swirling around front offices and news comes out about the tragic car accident that involved Oneil Cruz where people were killed and his career was really up in the air and we didn’t know if he was the cause or was he gonna be locked up but luckily he’s ok and his name was cleared. With all of this on his consensus Cruz still had an impressive 62 game stretch in AA, 136 wRC+ .292/.346/.536 with a .244 ISO which would have been ranked in the top percentile in the MLB. That isolated power was making waves because now these clips of Cruz hitting 118 MPH singles were making its way around and then we saw a 120 MPH HR which is one of the hardest hit balls in the statcast era and is the hardest hit HR in the statcast era regardless of the level. But currently looking at his Fangraphs page the one thing that pops out here in his AA career is the 18 SB in 62 games and at 6’7 that’s insane and speaks to his generational athleticism for his size.
After those 62 games he got the call to Triple-A at the age of 22 where he only played 6 games before getting another call to the BIG LEAGUES. To put into words the rise of Oneil Cruz is insane because this kid at the age of 22 who was traded for a mediocre relief pitcher and wasn’t even ranked 5 years ago is now making his major league debut where he officially put his name on the map. On October 3rd, Oneil Cruz showed his full display of power with his 1st career HR and a 118.2 mph single which was the 6th hardest ball in 2021 in his SECOND game. In the small sample size the 5 batted balls Cruz had in 2021 had an average of 100.5 mph and 2/5 batted balls were barrels and if he keeps that pace to some extent that is something nobody has seen. Harder hit balls = more base hits.
Steamer is a projection system that was developed by a High School teacher that Fangraphs uses to project individual players. And Steamer projected Oneil Cruz who only had 2 GAMES played in the majors to project better than players the likes of Rafeal Devers, Alex Bregman and a bunch of other notable names. The hype was real around Cruz and now in 2022 people were just counting down the days till the Pirates recalled him back up.
Spring Training 2022 was another coming out party for Cruz who batted .333 with 2 HR and 3 RBI and the Homeruns this man was hitting was Vladimir Guerrero Sr esc, balls that were below his knees that he was hitting over the fence and really displayed the raw power. Pirates were clamoring for the Pirates front office to start Cruz off on the main roster but from the Pirates perspective need to keep the control of Cruz because they are still not in a winning situation but now they realize they need to start changing the narrative in Pittsburgh.
June 20th, Oneil Cruz was recalled up to the majors and made historic waves on that night where he drove in 4 RBI and one of the hits was a bases clearly double that he was stretching into a triple. Then in the field he showed off the arm throwing a 96.7 mph ball across the diamond which was the second hardest throw by an infielder recorded in the statcast era. So the bat was being displayed, the arm was being displayed but what about the speed? Well Cruz had a 31.5 ft/sec sprint speed which was faster than NFL’s WR Tyreek Hill’s fastest sprint speed last season (31.4 ft/sec) and Tyreek is known to be the fastest man possibly in NFL history and 6 FOOT 7 Oneil Cruz is almost as fast as that man. Yeah he’s a freak man and that should really wrap up everything here about what I’ve said about this kid and now you should be convinced and now you can confidently go on Ebay and buy some Oneil Cruz rookie cards to make yourself a fortune.