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Believe it not, the Pittsburgh Pirates are actually worth watching.
Stuck in a years-long pattern of mediocrity, Pittsburgh’s been given new life thanks to the recent play of shortstop Oneil Cruz, who stands 6’7 and weighs in at more than 215 pounds – making him the tallest shortstop in MLB history.
Cruz made his Major League debut last October, playing in two games, then began this season in Triple-A. He was promoted to the Pirates less than two weeks ago and has appeared in nine games, quickly gaining notoriety for his size and skills.
In his 2022 season debut (June 20th), Cruz threw a ball from short to first that clocked 96.7 mph – the hardest throw by an infielder this year.
So: ONeil Cruz has been back up for about 25 minutes. He's already got the hardest tracked throw by an infielder of the season (96.7). I think that's going to work. pic.twitter.com/0vOCbs6BVo
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) June 21, 2022
He can throw and run too. As of Wednesday morning, Cruz holds the top mark for Pirates this season in hardest hit ball (112.9) and fastest sprint speeds, regularly hitting more than 30 mph. Impressive numbers for anyone, let alone someone who’s taller than Aaron Judge, the Yankees’ giant slugger.
And oh by the way, he also drilled his first career home run 408 feet.
It's the first home run of the season for Oneil Cruz! pic.twitter.com/6MumAAwYHM
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 28, 2022
“God just gave him all that,” Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds says of Cruz, per MSN. “and said, ‘You’re going to hit the ball 120 mph.’”
Technically Cruz only hit the ball about 110 mph, but we’re with you Bryan.
Through nine games the 23-year-old Cruz has eight RBIs, four assists and a perfect fielding percentage. Despite his unusual height for the position, the phenom has no plans to move elsewhere throughout the diamond.
“I take a lot of pride playing shortstop,” Cruz told USA TODAY through Mike Gonzalez, Pittsburgh’s interpreter. “It’s a position not only I’m deeply in love with but I feel super comfortable in. So for me, it’s very important for myself to just maintain myself and hopefully continue in my career as a shortstop.”
Pittsburgh would be wise to cater to Cruz’ request. Irrelevant for what seems like decades, the Pirates finally have what could be – quite literally – the MLB’s biggest attraction.
Follow along on Twitter: @OhioAF