Oneil Cruz is the first 6-foot-7 shortstop you've ever seen. He might not be the last
When the Pittsburgh Pirates called in top prospect Oneil Cruz this week, those trying to explain the excitement around him had to reach out to other areas for comparisons. Baseball's Giannis Antetokounmpo. The size of Aaron Judge with the speed of Tyreek Hill.
Those who were actually convinced to turn on the pirate game needed no further analogies. The thrill of Cruz's potential was ever-present, purely visual stimulus.
You see, Cruz is 6-foot-7 and he's playing shortstop. And he's not a novelty act or fringe player with a cool quirk. By Tuesday, when Pittsburgh finally ended its particularly obnoxious campaign of service time manipulation, he was one of the most exciting players left in the minor leagues. At the start of the season, Baseball Prospectus ranked him No. 12 in the sport.
In his first game of 2022 (he made a single-game MLB debut in late 2021), Cruz threw the ball harder than any other MLB infielder that season, ran faster than any Pirate this season and hit the ball harder than him every pirate has this season.
Just by starting a game, Cruz became the highest shortstop in MLB history. And he needed those groundbreaking, comparison-defying abilities that so seldom blend in one body to answer the dominant question of "Why?" to "Why not?"
But where it used to be a hot notion that Cruz would stay at shortstop long enough to sniff the majors, he could quickly evolve from an anomaly to a trendsetter. If he keeps traction at one of baseball's most challenging and storied positions, his arrival could become a milestone for unicorns conquering the positional tropes and preconceptions of yet another sport.
Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz prepares for a pitch in the field. (AP Photo/Gene J Puskar)
Oneil Cruz is MLB's tallest shortstop...by a mile
Being 6-foot-7 and playing shortstop is totally unheard of.
Only six players who are 6ft 5 or taller, including Cruz, have ever appeared at the shortstop for any length of time in an MLB game. Only two have ever played ten games there in a season - Archi Cianfrocco, who played primarily as first base for the San Diego Padres in the 1990s, and Mike Morse, who emerged as shortstop but quickly moved to outfield.
The tallest players to aim for a true six-hole career have been in the 6-foot-4. This style of quarterback-body shortstop started with Cal Ripken Jr. and has proliferated a bit in recent years with Corey Seager and Carlos Correa. Cruz, who is listed at 220 pounds, has a lean, lanky body type that's closer to Fernando Tatis Jr., who is 6ft 3 tall.
When Cruz was younger and lankier, baseball prospectus writer Jarrett Seidler was among the group of scouts trying to predict his future. It was understandably hard to imagine what it would be like in the majors.
The story goes on
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