Pirates’ Oneil Cruz comes back to the majors, showing he belongs among the MLB’s best

near bounced off the plate and he still smashed them out of the park. When that dude’s locked in…

Cruz didn’t really try to hide his annoyance at being sent back to the minors to begin the season. Cruz had a sluggish start at the plate but finished the season strong, with an.894 OPS in his final 33 games before being called up, along with eight home runs, 25 RBIs, 30 runs scored, and a.374 on-base percentage.

Before Cruz was given the job, the Pirates used eight other players at shortstop this season, and there’s a reason none of them stayed. As a shortstop rookie, Diego Castillo had a.419 OPS in 98 at-bats, Rodolfo Castro had a.503 OPS in 65 at-bats, and Kevin Newman had a.683 OPS in 52 at-bats before suffering a groin injury that forced him to the injured list.

But now that he’s in the bigs, Pirates supporters may finally say so with joy. At the 2017 trade deadline, Cruz was traded to Pittsburgh in exchange for veteran left-handed reliever Tony Watson after initially signing with the Dodgers as an amateur free agency. He has made a number of “remember when” first impressions throughout his stint with the Pirates organization.

Early in April, Hayes said, “The first time I saw him was in spring training, when he was 18, he was hitting balls off the curveball machine over the batter’s eye.

“I never had the opportunity to play with him in the lower levels, but I got to hang around with him, Nick Gonzales, and those guys a lot in 2020 at the alternative site. We have a lot of talented people coming up.

And there is tremendous joy now that one of the crucial components has arrived in Pittsburgh.