Oneil Cruz Finally Getting the Call, Alongside Bligh Madris

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

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After two and a half months, and constant begging from the fan base, Oneil Cruz is being called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The top prospect and shortstop was confirmed to be heading into town for this week's home series against the Cubs starting tomorrow.  Head coach Derek Shelton also confirmed after the game that outfielder Bligh Madris will be joining Cruz in Pittsburgh.

Cruz came up for a very short stint at the end of the 2021 season.  He went 3 for 9 with a homerun and three RBI.  The memorable homerun came while Cruz swung with one knee on the ground.  Most thought he may earn his way onto the roster in Spring Training.  In addition to playing very well, he was, and still is, known for hitting monster homeruns at 110+ mph off the bat.  Unfortunately, Cruz did not make the roster out of the Spring, and fans have been asking for his call up ever since.

Cruz, however, continued these monster homeruns in the minors.  He has been topping the exit velocity charts on his homeruns and extra base hits.  Cruz also began using a homerun celebration where he checked a fake watch on his wrist.  The celebration is thought by fans to mean Cruz asking the organization "is it about time for me to be called up yet?"

The Pirates have been feeding the fans lines about Cruz still having things to work on, and that may be partly true.  However, the callup coming after the expected Super-2 date points to service time manipulation.  While this was supposed to be addressed in the most recent CBA negotiations, the players didn't do enough to fully fix what the Pirates appear to have done this season with Cruz.

However, the past is the past and let's just celebrate finally getting to see this young hitter in the big leagues.  Although we can certainly expect the same type of manipulation in the future with top prospects unless Major League Baseball makes material changes with their policies.

Bligh Madris has also been getting a lot of attention from fans with an eye on the minor leagues.  At AAA this season, he is batting .304 with a fantastic .904 OPS.  He has five homeruns and 20 RBI in 46 games played this season.  

I'm not a minor league guru like some of my colleagues, but Madris' name has been floating around Pirates social media forums since the start of the minor league season as a potential callup.  The 26 year-old is not among the Pirates top prospects, but those lists are certainly not a guarantee that a guy will or will not perform well at the big leagues. 

I find it more impressive sometimes when a guy who isn't touted on these lists earns his way into a spot with the big club.  For a guy more behind the scenes to emerge like that means they must be playing extremely well to get noticed.  I look forward to watching both of these youngsters join a Pirates team filled to the brim with rookies this season.  Including one, Jack Suwinski, who hit three homeruns today with one being a walkoff winner.