On Monday, we wrote about the season debut of touted Pittsburgh Pirates rookie shortstop Oneil Cruz – not his MLB debut, as he played in two games late in the 2021 campaign – and how he had been the favorite to win National League Rookie of the Year in the spring but had fallen back being in the minors for so long. Well, after two sensational games Cruz is now the +400 co-favorite at Caesars Sportsbook with Padres pitcher MacKenzie Gore.
Cruz was a long as +3000 as recently as June 10 because his promotion to the majors wasn't thought to be imminent. A Colorado bettor put down $2,500 on Cruz at +2000 not long after that for potential winnings of $50,000. When Cruz took the field for the first time Monday, he was +850.
All the 6-foot-7 Cruz did in his season debut against the Cubs go 2-for-5 with four RBIs and two runs scored and unleash a 96.7-mph throw from his shortstop position – the hardest tracked throw by an infielder of the season. At 6-foot-7, Cruz is the tallest everyday shortstop in big-league history. On Tuesday, Cruz was 1-for-4 with an RBI and his first big-league steal. The 23-year-old is the first Pirates player with an RBI in each of his first four career games since Cookie Lavagetto in 1934.
The Pirates look like a different team since Cruz's promotion. They've outscored the Cubs 19-2 – although it's the Cubs we're talking about here, who are one of the worst teams in the majors.
Caesars hasn't yet posted odds on another rookie who was promoted with Cruz: Outfielder Bligh Madris, although he's not considered a top prospect at age 26. On Monday, Madris became the first Pirates player to have a three-hit game in his debut since Jason Kendall in 1996. On Tuesday, he added his first career home run. He's 4-for-8 with three RBIs, two runs scored and a steal.
Pittsburgh could be pretty good soon with those two, outfielder Jack Suwinski (+1400 for NL ROY) and pitcher Roansy Contreras (+4000). The team's top two prospects are second baseman Nick Gonzales and catcher Henry Davis and it's highly unlikely either will make his MLB debut this year. Gonzales is more likely to arrive in 2023, while Davis projects for a 2024 debut. The latter was the first overall pick in the 2021 draft.
The Pirates are short home underdogs tonight vs. the Cubs as Pittsburgh is starting veteran journeyman Jerad Eickhoff (season debut) vs. Chicago's Keegan Thompson (6-2, 3.27 ERA).
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