Prospect Roundtable: The Book on Oneil Cruz

It seemed like only yesterday Oneil Cruz was in the minors, and Pittsburgh was clamoring for him to be in the big leagues.

Cruz has already exceeded prospect status, which means it is time for our Prospect Roundtable feature where we look at his career outlook from this point.

I'm not sure we've really learned much that we didn't know prior to Cruz arriving. But I'll save my opinion. Read below for our collective thoughts on what to expect from Cruz going forward, and realize that this book is barely into the first chapter. As usual, our reports are written independently, without seeing what anyone else wrote.
JOHN DREKER
Even though his hitting has been about the same in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, Pirates fans are seeing a much better version of Oneil Cruz than those who have wa...

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emjayinTN

Thank you all – excellent, objective views on a very talented kid.

Wonder why his attitude improved from the minors to the majors? I think he felt overlooked, especially when two newcomers got to MLB before him. MI Diego Castillo out of ST, and Jack Suwinski from AA. Just my opinion.

Cruz is unique in that he always looks like he is analyzing just about everything he is being exposed to, and has the ability to flip the switch. I’ve liked him since the trade with the Dodgers, but if somebody told me he would come up and field .975 at SS in his first 40 games, I would have laughed. The Pirates have really improved the up the middle defense in the past month by adding Delay/Godoy behind the plate, and Cruz at SS to go along with Reynolds in CF. Take your pick of about 6 young guys who can step in and be top defenders at 2B. My top choices right now at 2B are Rodolfo Castro and ji-Hwan Bae.

Time to identify a 1B (MM, IMO) and the guys who will be on either side of Reynolds in 2023 (Suwinski, Mitchell, Marcano), and get them all as many reps as possible at the MLB level the remainder of 2022. The Starting Pitching is getting much better and the BP is just about set. The Pirates do those things and they are on the right path to competing in the NL.

Mtgj

Once again,

I am logged in but can’t read the article.

It stops right after John dreker starts his paragraph and says PREMIUM CONTENT even though I’m logged in. I even logged out and back in but I still can’t read the article. This happens over and over to me and nobody has fixed it. It’s really started to annoy me.

KirkV12

I think the unexpected competence at SS is a bigger deal than the unfortunate incompetence at strike zone discipline/low batting average. The former seems like a major surprise that raises both his floor and ceiling immensely. The latter seems specific, and fixable if he commits himself to it.

The struggles with contact have been SO specific and consistent: breaking balls below the zone. The funny thing is, he doesn’t even need to fix his swing or learn how to hit those pitches: he just needs to learn to lay off them. I wonder if some sort of behavior shaping batting practice would help. For instance, throwing him a bunch of breaking balls in all sorts of places, but having an alarm go off every time his swing dips below the strike zone. Sounds a little ridiculous, but those kinds of practices build muscle memory fast.

PiratePrimate

A shock collar works on pointers if used judiciously but I understand humans start flinching after awhile.

KirkV12

I think the reason he keeps swinging at low breaking balls is because every now and then he hits one to the moon. It’s called intermittent reinforcement, and it’s why people lose their life savings at slot machines. The brain can fully understand that logically it’s a losing game, but the body is reinforced by the happy noises and flashing lights when you win that one time out of a hundred, and it keeps seeking that feeling. Cruz hits a jackpot on low breaking balls one out of a hundred times, and his body keeps seeking that reward, even though it’s a losing battle, and his walks and average suffer as a result.

The cure to intermittent reinforcement is consistent negative outcome with no experience of reward. If the reward stops coming over a long enough stretch, the behavior is extinguished. So have him practice constantly with some aversive alarm sound at every swing (even those with good contact) at pitches out of the zone low. And maybe some kind of positive sound (a crowd cheering?) at swings in the zone. Could easily be accomplished with the same tech they use for showing the strike zone on TV broadcasts, and would retrain his reflexes to lay off those pitches in games, so that his body is reliable and he doesn’t have to try to override it with his mind.

AdministrativeSky236

This is really interesting at the thought of some conditioning of swings great than just results, wonder if that has ever been used before? We saw last year in pgh and this spring training where he golfed a ball a mile and people went crazy, but realistically those shouldnt have been swings

KirkV12

Exactly! I remember those homers, and I remember one of the coaches say “he probably shouldn’t have swung at that.” I’m sure Cruz knows that too, but you don’t use your logical mind to swing at a pitch, you use your reflexes. So it’s the reflexes that could use retraining around pitch selection.

mpg43952

Most unique prospect since the Cobra – hope he’s half as good!

ricramer

Sky is the limit, eh?

JimEastTennessee

Actually, the River

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