Where Would Oneil Cruz Rate in the Pirates Top 50 Prospects?

Prior to the MLB trade deadline, we released our mid-season top 50 prospects, taking a look at where all of the new members of the Pirates’ system would rank, all while factoring in the performances we’ve seen this season. When the Pirates add a new prospect, I ask around for rankings on the player, then figure out where the player fits on the list.

So when the Pirates added two prospects for Tony Watson yesterday, I asked John Dreker and Wilbur Miller for their rankings, and we figured out where the new guys would end up.

Based on the title, you can probably figure out that right-handed pitcher Angel German didn’t end up in the top 50. You could make an argument that he would belong in Tier 7, just outside of the top 50 with several other players who project as bench or bullpen guys. He probably won’t have a chance to move up until he starts having success in the upper levels, since we’re typically low on relievers.

Interestingly enough, the Pirates traded Seth McGarry for Joaquin Benoit, and German had slightly better rankings than McGarry. We had McGarry as a guy who could reach the majors, but probably would only be depth out of Triple-A. His ceiling was just below a regular MLB reliever, with his path fueled by a strong ground ball rate. German received the exact same ratings, except we see him with a slightly better chance of having a ceiling as a regular reliever. Basically, this swap of relief pitching prospects was a wash.

So that raises the question of where Oneil Cruz would end up in the top 50. He was rated 21st overall by MLB Pipeline in the Dodgers’ system. We ended up giving him a likely upside just below an MLB bench player, figuring his tools and skills could take him to at least getting a brief appearance in the majors, and maybe a role as an up and down player. He’s risky though, which is why we were in unanimous agreement that his floor was a career minor leaguer. We were also unanimous that the ceiling would be an average starter.

The overall rating put Cruz in Tier 5 of our rankings, slotting in with guys towards the end of the top 30. We ended up putting him behind Dario Agrazal, making him the 32nd best prospect in the system. However, with the way our tiers work, you could make an argument that he could rank as high as 23, depending on how you favor upside and how you calculate risk. I’d have him anywhere in the 27-31 range.

That group makes a lot of sense. Other prospects in Tier 5 include Conner Uselton and Lolo Sanchez — two promising young players in the lower levels who have high ceilings. From what we’ve read and seen on Cruz, he seems very close to Sanchez in overall value and upside. Sanchez was our number 30 prospect.

This could all easily change once we get a better look at Cruz. It could also change based on his performance the next few years. Young, projectable prospects are never locked in to their rankings, and they can change in a hurry as the players grow and develop. Cruz is only 18-years-old, so he’s got plenty of time to develop and improve. For now, he’s one of a growing group of high upside players in the lower levels of the Pirates’ system.

  • So he was the #21 prospect in a pretty good Dodgers system, but he is #32 in the Pirates minor league system. You know what, I don’t care either way. Can he hit? That’s about all I really care about.

  • Just a heads up if you haven’t seen it but Fangraphs ranked the prospects moved at the deadline and they had German 46 and Cruz 49. They said Cruz was measured at 6’8″ before the season and he has trouble getting his glove down at 3B. Says he will have to be an OF.

    • I thought that was a weird ranking, because I would trade German and McGarry (ranked one spot ahead of German) for a guy like Cruz every single time, and I can’t imagine there’s an MLB GM who wouldn’t make the same trade.

      • I wonder if it is due to his size. As I said they don’t feel he’ll be able to stay in the infield. Although he is an everyday guy versus to seemingly definite relievers. I found it odd too.

        • Even if he can’t stay in the infield, he could move to the outfield or first base. And I’d still take an outfielder or first baseman with his raw power potential at 18 over a low-level reliever.

  • Fangraphs was very low on him, I just saw their ranking of prospects and he was about 50th. But it also seems like one of their writers got a look at him at some point and he missed a grounder and had a hole in the swing. In comparison, the guy the astros traded to the Blue Jays for Liriano was 10th. I’d say, he’s a lottery ticket.

  • I’d like to see some defensive video on him to see his athletic abilities. Still projects as corner outfielder at that size speed combo.

  • Tim the comments on the two kids we got for Watson are much appreciated. I haven’t heard anyone else jumping up and down about them. One of my best old friends from college bleeds Dodger blue and he didn’t know beans about either of these guys.

  • What if he grows another couple of inches…

  • That last paragraph was the key thought to this whole ranking article.

    Let’s hope that his future is up.

    Still…getting ANYTHING for Watson was a win. 🙂

    • The kid is already playing in Lo A which is 3 levels above GCL Rookie league where most of the Pirate 18 & 19 year olds are playing. At that level he whiffs a lot at the plate and in the field at 3B (18 E’s in 47 Games). The Pirates move everybody v e r y s l o w l y. The Dodgers took a very aggressive line with Cruz.

      I agree with you about the return – Oneil Cruz and Angel German individually would have been more than we could expect for Watson. As John stated, in 2015 Cruz signed for $950,000 with LAD as a 6’1″ 150 SS. Now he is 6’6″ so he really needs to work hard to get that growth under control on both sides of the ball – what a great problem to have.

  • MLB pipeline slotted Cruz in at 16 for us….

    • I was just going to add that. Apparently, Mayo is a bit more bullish on him than the 3 Amigos. 🙂

    • We talked about that ranking before the article went up, also mentioned it in the Morning Report today. Baseball America seems much lower on him and probably for the same reason we were, although Pipeline doesn’t seem to disagree. Cruz doesn’t project for a valuable position and will probably lose some of his average foot speed as he fills out. If anyone saw him as a possible future SS, then he would have ranked higher for us. As a future corner outfielder or first baseman with BB/SO issues, there is a lot of risk to go along with that high upside.

      • Doesn’t he also play 3rd base? Or does he not have the tools to stay there long-term?

        • Yes he plays third base now, with nearly 2/3 of his career games there. He has the arm for the spot, but he projects to move as he fills out. He was skinny as a 6’1″ player, then shot up 5 inches, so there is a lot of filling out to do. He turns 19 in October, so we are talking about someone who is younger than some HS draft picks this year.

          • how about a 6-6 right handed pitcher who could fill out . if he played shortstop he must have a good arm.

            • Did you see the home run videos from this morning?

              • How long will Meadows be in the GCL? Will he go straight to AAA when he’s done or will they have him move up gradually?

                • He could stay on DL for the year, then require TJ surgery–or the equivalent– since he was a top PBC pick. (Could have drafted Aaron Judge that year!!!)


                  Sorry for all of the negativism, but I’ve been a Pirates fan for 65 years, growing up in the shadow of Forbes Field in Oakland (could even see bits of the game from our HC Frick grade school class rooms, through the second and third decks), later racing to Oakland to drive around and celebrate Maz’s home run, etc.

                  My favorite teams were the “Lumber Company” teams of the 1970’s for whom no game deficit was too large.

                  But, I am sick of the Nutting-driven screw ups, indifference, penny pinching ways and what’s it done to the franchise I loved and often would drive five hours to see when they played Sunday/holiday doubleheaders.

                  Tim’s publication educates fans and offers insights into young players coming up, but so few make it or produce little when they get to the bigs. In the meantime, I see team after etam, bring up kids who hit/pitch perform and keep performing.

                  Ours don’t.

                  • I’m 60 years old. Patience is a virtue that most MLB fans have very little. I’m disappointed with this season but you cannot blame the Pirates Mgt. for many of the problems. They have done the rental player route before and that’s not the answer. We need to develop our own players.Josh Bell has had a nice season and really so has Jose Osuna. Trevor Williams is showing nice promise this year. I’ve seen Max Moroff play and he has talent but not everyone can hit the ground running in the Bigs. The new players from 2016 are doing well Jameson Taillon & Felipe Rivero. Plus Adam Frazier needs to be more consistent but Cutch, Gregory Polanco & J-HAY have issues here too. We should get behind the team instead of being so negative all the time.

                  • What a ridiculous post. Sorry that I wasted my time reading it.

                    Btw, every team in baseball passed on drafting Judge since he wasn’t viewed as a strong prospect. Occasionally a player blows up – and that seems to have happened here. A year ago, any team in MLB could have traded for Judge by offering a strong prospect or a rotation pitcher. Things have changed.

                • That’s up to the Pirates and how he recovers from playing games. Most guys are in the GCL for at least 5-8 games. They play 5 innings, day off, 5 innings, day off, 7 innings, day off, 7, day off, 9 innings, day off, two straight full games. That’s seven games. That an average standard to use, but varies depending on missed time and how well they handle the return. He might go to Bradenton for 2-3 games first, then up to Indy. Nothing is set in stone, but there are estimates that are based on past results.