Signed by the Dodgers for $950,000 back in 2015, Cruz was the key part of the return sent to the Pirates for reliever Tony Watson at the 2017 Trade Deadline. Having grown three inches since signing, the now 6-foot-7 shortstop used incredibly loud tools to get to Double-A in 2019 despite a foot fracture before struggling in the Arizona Fall League. After participating in the Pirates’ alternate camp in 2020, his future was clouded during the offseason when he was involved in a car accident that killed three people, though no charges were filed and he was able to participate in winter ball as planned.
Cruz continues to be one of the most fascinating prospects in baseball because of his size, position and, more than anything, offensive potential. The raw power and ability to barrel up the baseball is readily apparent, with an average exit velocity off the bat in 2019 of 92.4 mph equaling that of former Pirates first baseman Josh Bell that season. The Pirates spent a lot of time with Cruz talking about chase rates and committing to a gameplan and approach for each at-bat during his time at the alternate camp last summer, with positive results.
For years now, especially since he’s grown to 6-foot-7, everyone has been waiting for Cruz to move off of his position at shortstop. His close to top-of-the-scale arm works just fine and despite his size has shown the ability to make plays. One of the reasons to keep him in the infield for now is to encourage him to stay engaged in every pitch, with maturity perhaps the only thing keeping him from truly unlocking his tremendous potential.
2020 Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Run: 55 | Arm: 70 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55
Organizations always want their prospects to grow as they move up the Minor League ladder. Cruz has taken that extremely literally. He got taller in the year before the Dodgers signed him in 2015 for $950,000, standing around 6-foot-4. He was up to 6-foot-6 when the Pirates acquired him in the July 2017 Tony Watson deal. Along the way, he's shown glimpses of incredible offensive tools and defied conventional wisdom defensively, all while reaching Double-A at age 20, despite a foot fracture in 2019.
Cruz has the chance to hit for a lot of power once he finally stops growing and starts filling out his long and lean frame. There's plenty of room to add strength and he has as much raw power as anyone in the system. He's started to show the ability to get to that power with an improved approach at the plate, though there's bound to be swing and miss in his game long-term.
Cruz runs very well and his athleticism allows him continue to play shortstop longer than anyone could have anticipated. He continues to improve and has one of the strongest arms in the Minors and there are still no plans to move him from the premium position, though most feel he'd profile extremely well in right field should a move need to happen. Cruz didn't perform well in the Arizona Fall League, but the Pirates aren't overly concerned with that small sample size, knowing he'll still be just 21 years old for all of the 2020 season and has every chance to develop into an offensive superstar.
2019 Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Run: 55 | Arm: 70 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55
Every once in a while a prospect comes along to defies traditional evaluations, who can't really fit into a specific box. Cruz, signed by the Dodgers in 2015 and traded to the Pirates in the Tony Watson deal in July 2017, could very well be that kind of player, especially following his strong first full season with his new organization in 2018.
Tall and gangly, Cruz has grown since first entering pro ball and now stands at 6-foot-6, not a height anyone has seen stick at shortstop. And while there's still a good chance he doesn't, he's made more strides at the premium position than anyone anticipated, with a cannon for an arm and above-average speed that helps him range-wise. Super-athletic, Cruz could easily handle an outfield spot should he slow down as he physically matures, and he could easily be an above-average defender in a corner. His real upside, though, comes with the bat. He has as much raw power as anyone in the system and, thanks to some excellent adjustments, he started tapping into it more consistently as a teenager in the South Atlantic League, hitting 14 home runs.
There's still more refinement in terms of strike zone discipline Cruz can make, but he's shown he is more than capable of developing that part of his game. Just 20 for all of the 2019 season, Cruz has tremendous upside and should continue to be one of the most fascinating prospects to track.
2018 Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 55 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
In the world of scouting and player development, who you sign isn't always who you get. Cruz was 6-foot-1 when he was first being scouted, then was 6-foot-4 by the time the Dodgers signed him in 2015. By 2016, when he began his pro career, he had grown to 6-foot-6. His tremendous ceiling was on display with a move from the Dominican Summer League up to full-season ball in 2017 and the Pirates noticed, acquiring the gangly infielder in the Tony Watson deal last July. A return to low A has been beneficial for Cruz, who made a very nice step forward in 2018.
Most of Cruz's upside comes in his power. He's more power over hit right now, and the ball jumps off of his bat. He has leverage and twitch at the plate, with plus game power starting to show up more frequently as he gets stronger and learns to control his body. His swing isn't overly long, but it does get out of control from time to time. Zone discipline has been a big area of focus and a more refined approach has allowed him to be a much more complete hitter in 2018. Cruz was a shortstop who moved over to third primarily in 2017, though some feel he has a chance to defy expectations and play up the middle. Cruz runs well and has a very strong arm, so a corner outfield spot might be his eventual home.
Still very young for his level, Cruz is continuing to learn his body. Regardless of where he plays defensively, it's his bat that will allow him to move up the ladder, and there were definite signs of progress in 2018.
2017 Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 50 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45
Left-side infielders don't come much taller than Cruz, who was 6-foot-1 when he started getting scouted at age 15, added three inches by the time he signed a year later, then continued to grow and made his pro debut last summer at 6-foot-6. Part of the Dodgers' extravagant international spending in the 2015-16 signing period, he received a $950,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic. After a strong introduction to pro ball in the Dominican Summer League, the Dodgers sent him to full-season ball in 2017. He took some understandable lumps but held his own before getting dealt to the Pirates in the Tony Watson deal at the Deadline.
Cruz hit .294/.367/.444 with 11 steals in the DSL in 2016 and with his whippy left-handed swing and the leverage provided by his frame, he has considerable power potential that he'll begin to realize as he gets stronger. His quick hands are an asset as he tries to make more consistent contact as such a young hitter with such a naturally long stroke..
Cruz has exceptional body control for someone his size and can play a decent shortstop. His size makes him destined to be a third baseman, and he has the agility and arm strength to be a solid defender there. A long strider who has above-average speed underway, he'll probably lose a step once he fills out.