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Statcast Heroes: Oneil Cruz, Martin Perez, Marco Gonzales

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We’re living in a special time for advanced baseball metrics. Today, you can watch a game, while having a laptop open to Baseball Savant, which will give you almost instantaneous updates on how hard a pitch was thrown, how hard it was hit, and how far it went.

Scouting involves the eye test, but it also involves giving credit to advanced metrics. The final evaluation of any player should involve a blend of in-person scouting with consideration of metrics. That said, sometimes there are things that only scouting can reveal, and other times only analytics and metrics can properly highlight a player.

Each week, I’ll be looking through the Statcast data at a position player, a pitcher, and a bonus player who stood out to me from a Statcast-only perspective.

The Hitter: Oneil Cruz

If there’s one big thing to get excited about in the early days of camp, it’s the power from Oneil Cruz. In his last four games, as of this writing, Cruz has five home runs. Those home runs come with ridiculous Statcast figures.

On March 5th, he hit his first homer 411 feet, with a 115 MPH exit velocity.

Cruz added two more homers on March 10th. The first went 412 feet, at 116.6 MPH off the bat. The second went 434 feet, with a 114.4 MPH exit velocity.

The homer from Cruz on March 12th didn’t have a distance measure, but left at 105.4 MPH. He homered the next day, and this also didn’t have a measure, but had a 104.9 MPH exit velocity.

One thing that could impact the Pirates’ chances at contending this year is the production from Cruz. He’s got some of the best power potential in the game, and is starting to show that as more than potential in the middle days of Spring Training.

The Pitcher: Martin Perez

What has stood out to me early in camp has been the offspeed stuff of Martin Perez, who was the big free agent addition to the Pirates’ rotation.

In his debut on March 3rd, Perez threw 31 pitches. Among those, he threw 12 cutters and 11 changeups, heavily leading his rotation of five pitches. The cutter picked up two whiffs and four called strikes. The changeup added three whiffs and two called strikes. In total, 39% of Perez’s pitches that day went for called strikes or whiffs (CSW%).

Perez returned to the mound on March 8th, and had another solid day, with 55 pitches thrown and a 29% CSW. He threw 21 cutters, with one whiff and two called strikes. Of his 17 sinkers, he had one whiff and six called strikes. He threw 14 changeups, getting four whiffs and a called strike. He added a called strike with his curveball.

The changeup stands out as his best pitch, generating double-digit swing and miss rates throughout his career. Perez has mostly averaged around a 25% CSW, and his best season in that regard was in 2022, when he put up a 3.27 FIP, fueled by a career-high 20.6 K%. He sits at 20% through two Spring starts, which is a good early sign.

The Bonus: Marco Gonzales

Gonzales went five innings against the Orioles on Thursday, allowing one run on a hit, while striking out four. What stood out to me was his assortment of pitches, and the whiffs he generated across the board.

Gonzales threw 26 fastballs, picking up three called strikes and two whiffs. He threw his cutter 18 times, with two called strikes and three whiffs. He threw the changeup 16 times, with zero called strikes, but three whiffs. His curveball was thrown 14 times, and while it didn’t generate any whiffs, he was able to get an astounding six called strikes with the pitch. In total, Gonzales threw 74 pitches, with 19 of them going for called strikes or whiffs, for a 26% rate.

This is about average for the career of Gonzales, as he’s not much of a strikeout pitcher. He’s an innings eater who is only costing the Pirates a few million, and who could benefit from reduced home run totals in PNC Park. The fact that he’s looking like normal in his early starts is a good sign for his potential to eat innings following an injury-filled, poor-performance year.

Tim Williams
Tim Williams
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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