Players in Major League Baseball aren't going to win the MVP or Cy Young Award if they don't play for about two months in a given season, but the Rookie of the Year Award is a different animal because many top rookies don't open a season with the big club for service-time reasons. That was the case for Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz, who is being called up and should make his season debut tonight at home vs. the Chicago Cubs. Cruz is +850 at Caesars Sportsbook to win NL Rookie of the Year.
We wrote about the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Cruz on March 24, when he was the +400 favorite at Caesars to win Rookie of the Year – Pittsburgh surprisingly only has had one winner, outfielder Jason Bay in 2004. Cruz, ranked as the No. 22 overall prospect in the sport, would become the tallest everyday shortstop in big-league history. He hit well this spring, but the Pirates sent him down for "seasoning," which is code for gaming his service time to gain an extra year of control. Cruz did see action in two late-season games a year ago for Pittsburgh and was 3-for-9 with a homer.
"Now's the time that we think he can help us," Manager Derek Shelton said of the 23-year-old Cruz. "We've talked about a lot of things developmentally. There's still things we're going to continue to work on, but we think now's the time that he's going to help us."
Originally signed by the Dodgers out of the Dominican Republic, Cruz was traded to the Pirates in 2017 as part of a deadline deal that sent Tony Watson to Los Angeles. Cruz has a .233/.337/.424 slash line with seven doubles, three triples, nine home runs, 35 RBIs and 11 steals in 54 games at Triple-A Indianapolis this year. He has been better in June, slashing .283/.364/500 with two doubles, one triple, two homers and eight RBIs.
Cruz has also played some left field, but the Pirates are expected to keep him primarily at short for now with Kevin Newman out since late April due to injury and Diego Castillo not hitting a lick as the primary shortstop in Newman's place.
Pittsburgh suddenly has another NL Rookie of the Year candidate in outfielder Jack Suwinski, who is +1200. On Sunday in a 4-3 home win over Arizona, he became the first rookie in major league history to have a three-homer game that included a walk-off home run. Suwinski was the second Pirates rookie to hit three homers in a game, joining Andrew McCutchen (Aug. 1, 2009). Suwinski is hitting .230 with 11 homers and 19 RBIs in 47 games. He was acquired last year from the Padres in the Adam Frazer trade.
Cardinals infielder Nolan Gorman is the current NL Rookie of the Year favorite at +325.
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