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Oneil Cruz lives as much as hype in first Pirates recreation of the season

Oneil Cruz lives as much as hype in first Pirates recreation of the season

Welcome to The Opener, the place each weekday morning in the course of the common season you’ll get a contemporary, topical story to start out your day from one among SI.com’s MLB writers.

It took star prospect Oneil Cruz simply over 10 weeks to make his season debut with the Pirates, on Monday evening at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. It took simply over 10 batters for him to make his first play within the subject. By that time, it was already clear to everybody watching that his mere presence was such spectacle within the first place.

In his 2022 big-league debut, Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz (15) hits a three run double against the Chicago Cubs during the third inning inning at PNC Park.

There has by no means been a participant fairly just like the 6’7” Cruz, who final yr grew to become the primary person who tall to start out an MLB recreation at shortstop.

Spectacle is a good phrase to explain Cruz, 23, as a result of earlier than you even take into account his expertise—we’ll get to that later—you’ll discover his dimension. At 6’7″, Cruz is a rarity within the massive leagues. He’s one among simply 31 gamers listed at that top ever to report an MLB plate look, and one among simply 16 non-pitchers to take action.

What’s much more outstanding is that Cruz is a shortstop. Earlier than him, just one participant listed at 6’7” had ever performed the place within the recreation’s recorded historical past: Joel Guzmán, who spent all of 9 innings at shortstop throughout three video games for Tampa Bay in 2007. Guzmán by no means began a recreation at quick, although, placing Cruz in a league of his personal.

Past his immense stature, Cruz’s arrival to The Present is worthy of all of the fanfare due to that apparent expertise we alluded to earlier than. He’s been touted as one of many recreation’s high 100 prospects in every of the previous 4 years by Baseball America and MLB Pipeline, peaking at Nos. 14 and 26, respectively, by every publication earlier than this season. He hit 58 house runs with 71 stolen bases and an .800 OPS throughout 459 video games within the minor leagues, and flashed his many instruments in a quick two-game call-up on the finish of final season. Now, he’s right here to remain, and his 2022 debut screamed previous the already-stratospheric hype.

Within the high of the third, Cruz pulled off his first superhuman feat. Cubs catcher Willson Contreras hit a floor ball to the outlet on the left facet of the infield. Cruz fielded it along with his backhand, gathered his toes and fired a 96.7-mph strike on track to first base to nab Contreras by half a step. It was the fastest-thrown ball by an infielder this season.

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Then, got here the underside of the third. Within the earlier inning, Cruz reached base on an error in his first plate look. This time, he wanted no help getting on base. He rocketed a ball previous the middle fielder with the bases loaded to drive in three runs. The bases-clearing double registered because the hardest-hit ball by a Pirates participant this season (112.9 mph), and on the play, he additionally recorded the workforce’s quickest dash pace of the yr. The bodily marvel of watching somebody constructed like an NBA energy ahead around the bases that shortly made it in order that no person minded in any respect that he was thrown out making an attempt to stretch it right into a triple.

I imply, significantly, take a look at him: Does it appear like he’s having fun with himself on the market?

As if he didn’t have already got sufficient instruments at his disposal, the rookie has the arrogance of a 10-year veteran. Requested afterward in regards to the prospect that he may break Statcast along with his rising exit velocities, arm energy and dash pace, Cruz adopted the Ivan Drago philosophy.

“No matter’s going to get damaged goes to get damaged,” Cruz stated by the Pirates’ interpreter, per MLB.com’s Justice delos Santos.

Cruz added an RBI single within the seventh for good measure, however he had already carried out greater than sufficient to steal the present. The query of whether or not a 6’7”, 210-pound human ought to play shortstop will most likely all the time comply with him. Almost each prospect analysis of him—glowing or in any other case—mentions it, as a result of how may they not? Most agree, although, that he’s not less than satisfactory on the place in the intervening time, and he performed a clear recreation on Monday whereas displaying that he clearly has greater than sufficient arm to stay on the left facet of the diamond.

The 2022 Pirates are unlikely to win many video games this summer time. They’re presently on tempo for 66 and personal the Nationwide League’s second-lowest run differential (minus-93). Cruz’s presence gained’t be sufficient to meaningfully change that. However they undoubtedly have turn into extra enjoyable on account of his arrival, and that’s greater than might be stated of the workforce over the previous few years. Add in robust showings from different kids like rookies Roansy Contreras (3.06 ERA by 32 ⅓ innings) and Jack Suwinski (11 homers, together with three on Father’s Day, the final of which was a walk-off blast) and 25-year-old franchise third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes—all whereas final yr’s No. 1 general decide, Henry Davis, is already enjoying in Double A—and the long run for the Buccos seems to be brighter than it has at any level within the final seven years.

Cruz gained’t all the time have nights like this, and there are questions on his means to make constant contact on the massive league stage. However so long as Pittsburgh is fielding a shortstop who stands eye-to-eye with Aaron Decide and runs like Tyreek Hill, take into account the Pirates must-watch tv the remainder of the best way.

Extra MLB Protection:

The Goldy Hour: Paul Goldschmidt Has Never Been Better

MLB Power Rankings: These Players Are Their Team’s Biggest Bummers

• Five-Tool Newsletter: Who Is the MLB Steph Curry?

The New King of Catcher Interference

Back in My Father’s Day… These Are the Kids of the Boys of Summer


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