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‘He Wants to be a Shortstop’: Ben Cherington on Oneil Cruz’s Progress



Pirates Cruz Madris Cubs

The hot topic that has been circling since the beginning of the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ 2022 season has been Oneil Cruz. “Cruz should be on the Major League roster,” or “Cruz should be in Triple-A and learn more.” The battle is a never-ending war between two completely different sides of the spectrum of Pirates fans.

At the end of the day, the fans want to see Cruz succeed; it’s just the timing aspect that’s a bit askew. Think of it like this, they are watching the same movie series, but one is on the prequel while the other is on the sequel. Facts are facts, and Cruz has been better with the bat as the months got hotter.

Looking at the main numbers, Cruz has cut down on strikeouts from April (28) to May (20). Walks from April (10) to May (14) have gone up, and the power has surfaced from April (5 XBH) to May (9 XBH). The month of June has also been an early success, with a slash line of .333/.424/.667 in 33 at-bats. Things are starting to look up for the 6-foot-7 prospect.

“We’re really excited about how hard [Cruz] is working,” said general manager Ben Cherington. “Cruz works hard every day, and he knows what he needs to get better at. Cruz’s offense has ticked up, and we’re starting to see the consistency in making hard contact. Cruz was showing elite contact earlier in the season; it’s just more consistent now.”

Cherington wanted to affirm that they really like what they’ve seen from Cruz regarding swing decisions and his swing in general. The sky is the limit if the powerful lefty can develop good swing decisions. However, one of the bigger question marks with Cruz is his defense at shortstop.

“He wants to be a shortstop,” said Cherington emphatically. “We believe Cruz can play shortstop at the Major Leagues and be confident. That’s the piece or the part we’re challenging Cruz. We’re challenging Cruz to put himself in a situation defensively to be that guy.”

Cherington mentioned that Cruz has been working a ton on his defensive ability and believes that with his skill, Cruz can become “that guy” in the field. Maybe Cruz is destined for shortstop, or maybe it’s the outfield, either way, Cruz has the ability to be a special talent at the big league level.

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