If you’re unfamiliar with the name Oneil Cruz, it’s understandable. He plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are a last-place Major League Baseball team. However, that hasn’t stopped Oneil Cruz, a 6’7 Dominican shortstop, from being one of the most impressive players in the game this season.
Yes, you read that right. A 6’7 shortstop.
Furthermore, Cruz has already broken Statcast records in his rookie season in both throwing and batting. For those unfamiliar with Statcast, it is a state-of-the-art tracking technology that tracks the velocity of batted balls and balls thrown on the field.
Just this year, Cruz had the hardest hit ball since Statcast tracking began in 2015, with speeds hitting 122.4mph.
Here is Cruz depositing a baseball into the Allegheny river. This one was tracked at 113 mph!
Cruz has made a habit of breaking Statcast records all season, and not just with the bat.
Just this year, he had the fastest infield assist in Statcast history. Basically, he fielded a ground ball that was hit slowly and somehow managed to put enough heat into the throw to beat the runner by a half step. Being able to get a ball to the first baseman fast is not a skill to be overlooked, especially because a tenth of a second can make all the difference.
Oneil Cruz is the son of a retired minor league player, Rafael Cruz. If the name “Oneil” sounds unique for a man who was born in Nizao, Dominican Republic, that’s because he was named after his father’s favorite player, former New York Yankees outfield Paul O’Neil. Originally drafted by the Dodgers, Cruz was traded to the Pirates back in 2017 and seems to have an amazing career ahead of him.