The Los Angeles Dodgers‘ farm system has been so consistently good for the past decade that, occasionally, a prospect slips through the cracks and ascends to No. 1 status in someone else’s farm system … and doesn’t even leave a dent in Andrew Friedman’s corps.
Such is the case with Oneil Cruz, the hulking, slugging shortstop who we’d bet most of you forgot was ever a Dodger back in 2017.
LA flipped Cruz in an oft-forgotten trade, sacrificing one of their toolsy (and hidden) additions from the 2015-16 international free agency class for some immediate help in the form of left-handed reliever Tony Watson.
And it worked! Watson’s acquisition, which came at the cost of Cruz and RHP Angel German, propelled the Dodgers to a World Series berth that reached a tense Game 7 against a 25-man roster of convicted cheaters.
Unfortunately, the 6-7 Cruz — promoted at the tail end of the 2021 season — can do this.
Sorry, but did anyone else remember the Dodgers traded Oneil Cruz to the Pirates in 2017?
We understand why Cruz wasn’t untouchable back in 2017. He peaked in the mid-20s on Dodgers top prospect lists and, to be blunt, nobody expected a 6-7 shortstop to stay at the position. His body type was unheard of, so why not sell relatively high for a valued contributor down the stretch?
And Watson was a valued contributor, helping to send the Dodgers to the World Series that season. The left-hander posted a 2.70 ERA in 20 regular-season innings (striking out 18) before carrying a 0.00 ERA during the NLCS and World Series. Watson’s sparkling effort featured 2.1 shutout innings across four games against the Cubs, followed by 3.2 innings across five World Series games, allowing just one unearned run and recording two of the three Dodgers wins in the series.
In the short-term, acquiring Watson was a massive windfall. In the long-term, though, the Dodgers might’ve missed out on a young superstar who’s somehow stayed at shortstop, and would be ready to slide into Corey Seager’s spot this spring.
Cruz produced a significant number of hard-hit balls in 2021, mostly at Double-A Altoona, where he hit .292 with 12 bombs, 40 RBI and 18 stolen bases (!) in 250 at-bats.
In six games at Triple-A, the rumors are true; he really did bash five homers, walk eight times, and hit .524.
Is Cruz a long-term fit at shortstop? Seems physically impossible, but hey, neither was Seager. The future remains unwritten. Mostly, we’re just boggled in the mind that the Dodgers had such a unique talent in their system five years ago, and his loss barely even registered.