The pirates will call Oneil Cruz ready to join the big league team, reports Robert Murray of Fan Sided. Pirates manager Derek Shelton confirmed Cruz’s promotion to reporters, including Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazetteand added that the outfielder Blig Madris will also join the team. The corresponding movements are not known at this time. Cruz is on the 40-man roster but Madris is not.
Starting tomorrow, June 20, MLB teams will have to meet a limit of 13 pitchers on their 26-player active rosters, after previously being allowed to carry 14. With many teams pushing their pitching staffs to the limit, there are likely to be a slew of trades to come where a pitcher is subtracted from the roster to make room for a position player. However, it’s possible this could become the biggest of those deals, given Cruz’s prospect status and unusual profile.
Originally signed by the Dodgers out of the Dominican Republic, he was traded to the Pirates in 2017 in a delay deal that sent Tony Watson the other side. Since then, Cruz has garnered attention both for his incredible skills with the bat and because, at 6’7″, he is exceptionally tall for a shortstop.
Last year, Cruz completely dominated the minor leagues. In 68 games between Double-A and Triple-A, he hit 17 home runs, stole 19 bases and reduced .310/.375/.594, for a wRC+ of 158. Based on this tremendous performance, he was promoted to the big leagues in October last year, securing a two-game appearance at the end of the season. Cruz hit his first major league home run in one of his nine plate appearances last year.
Heading into this season, many expected Cruz to be on Pittsburgh’s opening day roster, but they picked him in late March, apparently motivated by on-duty considerations. By keeping him on the farm for a few weeks, they could prevent Cruz from reaching a full year of MLB service by the end of the 2022 season, thus delaying his free agency by a year. Cruz then was slow to get into a rhythm early in the season, hitting .176/.282/.284 in April. Based on that slow performance, Cruz stayed on the farm when the Pirates placed a regular shortstop Kevin Newman on the injured list at the end of April. Since that time, the majority of court playing time has gone to Diego Castillo, which hits .195/.238/.308 on the year. Meanwhile, Cruz’ bat was awakened from that sleepy start, as he hit .256/.368/.500 in May, followed by a .283/.364/.500 projection in June. The club tried to play Cruz in left field, giving him nine starts this year, but he made 42 starts at shortstop. It seems likely that the 23-year-old will have a chance to stay on the pitch, at least as long as the team isn’t in a competitive window.
Of course, when the team enters a competitive window, a lot will depend on the exciting youngsters. The Pirates have never been a high-paying team and will depend on Cruz, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Roansy Contreras and others to realize their potential while younger and cheaper in order to build a competitive ball club.
As for Madris, 26, he doesn’t get as much hype as Cruz, but there’s still reason for Pittsburgh fans to be excited, based on his strong performance this year. A ninth-round pick in the 2017 draft, the outfielder has never appeared on any of Baseball America’s top prospect lists in the system, despite earning an honorable mention on FanGraphs’ list coming this season. . In 45 Triple-A games this year, the left-handed swinger has made 11.3% of his trips at the plate and maintained his strikeouts at a 20.3% rate. Overall, his batting line is .308/.390/.526 for a wRC+ of 144. His .374 BABIP might be lucky for those numbers, but it’s still an impressive performance for the corner fielder. Madris will probably fight Jack Suwinski and Cal Mitchell for outside corner game time. Suwinski may have earned himself a longer look in a corner after today’s three-home run performance, but Mitchell only hit 0.205/0.244/0.356 in his first few weeks at the big league level .