The pirates will call Oneil Cruz to joining the big league team, reports FanSided’s Robert Murray. Pirates manager Derek Shelton confirmed Cruz’s promotion to reporters including Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazetteand added this outfielder Bligh Madris will also join the team. Corresponding steps are currently unknown. Cruz is on the 40-man squad, but Madris is not.
Beginning tomorrow, June 20, MLB teams must maintain a 13-pitcher limit on their 26-man active roster, having previously been allowed to carry 14. With many teams pushing their pitching batons to the limit, there’s likely to be a lot of upcoming transactions where a pitcher is pulled off the list to make room for a positional player. However, it’s possible that this will go down in history as the most significant of those deals, given Cruz’s potential status and unusual profile.
Originally signed by the Dodgers from the Dominican Republic, he was sold to the Pirates in a 2017 deadline deal Tony Watson the other way. Since then, Cruz has garnered attention for both his incredible ability with the racquet and his unusually tall 6ft 7in height for a shortstop.
Last year, Cruz totally dominated the minor leagues. In 68 games between Double-A and Triple-A, he hit 17 homers, stole 19 bases, and had .310/.375/.594 pets for a wRC+ of 158. Based on that great performance, he was promoted to the major leagues last October and got a cameo in two games at the end of the season. Cruz hit his first major league home run in one of his nine plate appearances last year.
Earlier this season, many expected Cruz to be on Pittsburgh’s opening day list, but they picked him in late March, seemingly motivated by service time considerations. By keeping him on the farm for a few weeks, they could prevent Cruz from achieving a full year of MLB service by the end of the 2022 season, delaying his free agency by a year. Cruz was slow to gain momentum early in the season, hitting .176/.282/.284 in April. Based on that sluggish performance, Cruz stayed on the farm when Pirates placed a regular shortstop Kevin Neuman on the injured list at the end of April. Since that time, most of the playing time has gone too short Diego Castillo, which reaches 0.195/0.238/0.308 in the year. Meanwhile, Cruz’s racquet was roused from that sleepy start when it hit .256/.368/.500 in May, followed by a .283/.364/.500 in June. The club have attempted to play Cruz in left field, giving him nine starts there that year, but he has made 42 starts at shortstop. It’s likely the 23-year-old will get the chance to stay in the infield, at least as long as the team isn’t in a competitive window.
Of course, as the team enters a competitive window, it will largely come down to the exciting youngsters. The Pirates have never been a high paying team and will depend on Cruz to Ke’Bryan Hayes, Roansy Contreras and others to fulfill their potential while in their younger and cheaper years to build a competitive ball club.
As for 26-year-old Madris, he’s not nearly as hyped as Cruz, but there’s still reason for Pittsburgh fans to be excited based on his stellar performance this year. The outfielder, who was drafted ninth round in the 2017 draft, has never appeared on any of Baseball America’s Best Prospects lists on the system, though he received an honorable mention on FanGraphs’ list coming this season. In 45 Triple-A games this year, the left-hander has made 11.3% of his trips to the plate and kept his strikeouts at 20.3%. Overall, his batting line is .308/.390/.526 for a wRC+ of 144. His .374 BABIP might bring some luck to those numbers, but it’s still an impressive feat for the corner fielder. Madris will probably fight Jack Suwinski and Cal Mitchell for corner court time. Suwinski might have earned a longer look in a corner after today’s performance with three homers, but Mitchell has hit just .205/.244/.356 in his first few weeks at the big league level.