Oneil Cruz can play shortstop today, but later is a question

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Oneil Cruz has a strong desire to be a shortstop. He does not want to play in the outfield.

This has been clear in both his body language and his words.

At the same time, he also knows the unique situation that he is in with his body type and the position.

“I am unique,” Cruz said through Miguel Perez’s translation. “I might be the only guy, or one of the few, who can play shortstop at my height.”

The height isn’t the only issue for Cruz at shortstop. From what I have seen this season, there are already range questions for the 6-foot-7 Cruz at the position. His value in Pittsburgh is clear and is what the brass is salivating over. Cruz can mash the ball. He can hit the ball harder than most have seen, and will ultimately project to a power bat in the middle of the order. As Cruz gets older, he will fill out more, and accordingly, become slower.

While on paper, Cruz has been credited with five errors, he had several others that were either questionable scoring or saved by Mason Martin at first. Below is an example that was ruled a hit on April 19.

It is certainly easy to look at a few examples over a long season, but these examples are consistent with the play most of the season, and his limitations at shortstop.

The only time this season I have seen Cruz visibly frustrated, and not smiling, was the second, and last, time that he played the outfield on April 24. In the contest, Cruz lost a fly ball in the sun, and had a tough read on a second chance, his lone outfield error in the outfield this season. However, on the latter, Cruz rebounded nicely and threw a strike to third. The runner was mistakenly called safe. This play showed both the flaws and potential for Cruz in the outfield. This was also the game that Cruz hit the viral walk-off home run with the bat toss.

Cruz received a third start in left field on Sunday, but did not see any action much of the game. The only two balls hit his direction cleared the fence through eight innings. However, in the ninth, he ranged in to make a nice running catch.

With Cruz finally appearing to turn the corner offensively, a potential call up will come sooner rather than later. Getting some more outfield seasoning now is crucial if they plan on giving him any look at left in the big leagues.

There is a lot of talk about letting Cruz play where he is comfortable now, and then move him when it is necessary. However, he needs quite a bit of seasoning to be ready to play the outfield. He also needs buy-in. Neither of these will come overnight.

Additionally, the Pirates are looking to finalize this rebuild and crest the hill to competing in the next couple of years. Trying to transition Cruz to the outfield on the fly for a team eying a division crown is a plot destined for disaster.


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