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Oliva off to strong start in Arizona Fall League

Altoona Curve v Portland Sea Dogs Photo by Zachary Roy/Getty Images

Jared Oliva certainly got off to a slow start in 2019, but the Pirates’ outfield prospect is finishing with a flourish.

The Bucs’ seventh-round selection in the 2017 draft out of the University of Arizona struggled out of the gate this season. He suffered a concussion in an outfield collision on Opening Day for Altoona in the Class AA Eastern League and missed the first two weeks.

He struggled for the rest of the month, hitting just .235 and compiling a .669 OPS.

It didn’t get any better in May – in fact it got a lot worse, as Oliva managed just 15 hits in 98 plate appearances (.176) and a paltry .537 OPS.

He turned his season around the following month, though, putting together an OPS of .858 while driving in 12 runs and stealing nine bags in 27 games.

His hot hitting continued in July, as the 6-foot-3 right-handed hitter put together a .388 average and a .987 OPS in 115 plate appearances.

He cooled off a bit in his final month, checking in at .255 and .635, but overall on the season, Oliva wound up with a .750 OPS and a .277 batting average to go with six home runs, 42 RBIs and 36 stolen bases in 46 tries. He’s also considered a solid outfield defender.

That earned Oliva a berth on the league’s end-of-season All-Star team – and a spot in the Arizona Fall League, where he is more than holding his own for the Peoria Javelinas.

Through 10 games in the fall league, Oliva has collected 11 hits – including four doubles -- in 31 at-bats while stealing five bases. His .996 OPS ranks sixth in the league, and his .355 batting average is ninth in the league.

While Oliva is distinguishing himself with some solid play, two other Pirates position prospects are struggling, at least offensively.

Oneil Cruz, the highly touted, giant-sized shortstop, is batting just .179 with a .412 OPS through eight games. He has 14 strikeouts in 28 at-bats.

The 6-foot-7 native of the Dominican Republic, who turns 21 today, divided his season between Bradenton of the Class A Florida State League and Double-A Altoona. At his latter stop, he slugged .412 with a .757 OPS, as he managed just one home run in 119 at-bats after hitting seven in 136 at-bats at Bradenton.

Pirates teammate Jason Delay has put up even worse numbers at Peoria; through five games and 17 at-bats, the catching prospect is hitting only .118 with a .387 OPS.

Delay, a fourth-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2017, appeared in 76 games at Altoona this season, driving in 37 runs and belting eight home runs to go with a .684 OPS.

On the pitching side, reliever Nick Mears has worked 3 2/3 innings in three appearances, allowing just one hit and striking out four without allowing an earned run.

Mears, 23, was undrafted out of Sacramento City College and signed with the Pirates as a free agent in August 2018. He started the 2019 campaign at Greensboro, moved up to Bradenton after just seven appearances and appeared in 30 games there before getting in four games at Altoona.

Altogether, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound right-hander allowed just 31 hits in 46 2/3innings while walking 18 and striking out 69.

Blake Cederlind, another reliever, has pitched four innings in four appearances and has had some control issues, yielding five walks and one hit while striking out three.

Cederlind, a fifth-round pick in 2016, also pitched for Bradenton and Altoona in 2019, putting together a 2.28 ERA in 41 appearances. In 59 1/3 innings, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander struck out 55, allowed 24 walks and gave up 46 hits.

Beau Sulser, the Pirates’ third pitching representative at Peoria, has made two starts and given up four earned runs and seven hits in five innings of work for the Javelinas.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hander went 8-3 at Altoona, giving up 88 hits and 31 walks in 96 innings while striking out 63. Sulser was drafted in the 10th round in 2017 out of Dartmouth.

The Arizona Fall League season started Sept. 18 and will conclude with the championship game Oct. 26. The Fall Stars Game is scheduled to be played Saturday, Oct. 12.