The combination of Super Two’s “deadline” and the rule limiting teams to 13 pitchers on their active roster has meant there’s been a flurry of calls from top prospects over the past few days. Scott White laid out what to expect from Riley Greene, Alex Kirilloff, CJ Abrams and the rest on Monday morning, but the most exciting of the group, at least in my opinion, was Pirates buddy Oneil Cruz.
Before the start of the season, I gave Cruz a cool compliment: Aaron Judge. I’m not saying that Cruz is going to fight for the NL MVP title this season or anything like that, but all spring I couldn’t get the composition of the judges out of my head. As with the referee, looking at the final score doesn’t quite reflect the experience of watching him in action. eerily similar to Judge’s .270/.365/.450 line during his time in the minors.
Cruz is almost like a referee, standing at 6ft 7in, making him the tallest shortstop in major league history. And with that huge frame comes the same raw power – his top exit speed of 118.2 mph in just nine plate appearances was the 11th fastest in baseball last season. However, Cruz has one thing that the referee has, and that is speed. He also has 33 interceptions in 159 double-A and triple-A games.
Cruz is capable of feats that few other players in the league are capable of, and he showed it all in his rookie season on Monday against the Cubs. In fact, in just the first five innings of the game, he had the hardest ball, fastest shot, and fastest sprint speed of any Pirates player that season. And, you know, from what fantasy players really care, he went 2 for 5 with a double, four RBIs and two runs scored.
It’s only reasonable to expect Cruz to have growth issues, as we’ve seen with Jarred Kelenick, Joe Adell and other prospects in recent years. However, Cruz has legitimately elite tools with an enhanced sense of play, and the advantage is clear. You should always be ready to bet to win, which makes Cruz a must-have lineup player in all formats wherever he is available.
Here are the other players I’m considering adding based on Monday’s performance: