3 players the Los Angeles Dodgers gave up on too soon
By Eric Treuden
Oneil Cruz never got enough of a shot in the Dodgers' organization.
Now 24 years old, Cruz has not yet accumulated the trophies, All-Star Game selections, and overall starpower that Yordan Alvarez has, but he's well on his way.
Originally signing with the Dodgers as an international free agent all the way back in 2015, Cruz played just one full season in the system as an 18-year-old, and didn't seem to find his groove at the professional level. In 2017, he played in a total of 105 games and hit just 11 doubles and 10 home runs, with a .237 average and a whopping 132 strikeouts.
Clearly, the organization had seen enough. Right at the trade deadline in 2017, Cruz, along with another minor league pitcher, was flipped to the Pirates in exchange for left-handed reliever Tony Watson. Watson had quietly been one of the more reliable southpaws in the game for the Pirates over a seven-year stretch, so it's no wonder the always-contending Dodgers wanted him to shore up their bullpen.
The issue is Cruz's inclusion in the trade.
In his very first season as a Pirates prospect, the infielder hit 14 home runs with a .286 average and saw nearly all of his offensive numbers go up. He continued to excel in the high minors for the Pirates until he was finally promoted to The Show in October of 2021.
His performance in 2022 had its fair share of ebbs and flows, but Cruz immediately seemed to be the real deal for the rebuilding Pirates. While he doesn't have a clear defensive position (mostly thanks to his massive 6-foot-7 frame not being suited for shortstop), his bat has been solid for the Pirates and he's been a human highlight reel both at the plate and in the field (with his absolute cannon of an arm) in the early goings of his big league career.