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Checking in on Oneil Cruz’ winter

MLB: Exhibition-Cleveland Indians at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Oneil Cruz has appeared in 14 games with Gigantes del Cibao in this year’s Dominican Winter League.

Currently, the Pirates’ number two prospect is hitting .245/.260/.347 in 50 plate appearances with his squad. Although he has not hit any home runs, Cruz has two triples and a double. Here is one of those triples.

As you can see in the video, Cruz has a smooth and almost effortless swing with easy power. When he makes contact, good things happen. That said, this winter, Cruz has more strikeouts (14) than hits (12). He has also walked just one time.

Defensively, Cruz has struggled at shortstop. His six errors lead the team. He also has a team-low .880 fielding percentage. As we know, errors and fielding percentage aren’t the greatest way to measure defensive ability. That said, six errors in 13 games played at shortstop is dreadful. Time will tell if Cruz can stick at shortstop long term. At this point though, my guess would be no.

At age 22, Cruz has unlimited potential. He has risen on every prospect rankings list in each of the last two seasons. He is currently the number 27 overall prospect according to FanGraphs. Although we don’t yet know what position Cruz will be playing when he reaches the majors, we know that the power and speed combination is for real.

Cruz has never played minor league ball above the AA level. It remains to be seen whether he will start the 2021 season at AA or AAA. My guess would be AAA. If things go well for him, he will have the chance at reaching the majors at some point in the summer.