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Is Oneil Cruz Healthy Or Injured? Fantasy Baseball Injury Update

oneil cruz fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers MLB prospects

Other than some flashes of the power stroke and some fine defensive play, Oneil Cruz's start to his MLB career was somewhat unremarkable. Through August 2022, his stat line was .202-11-35-26-6 with a wOBA of .286 and wRC+ of 81 in 230 PA. It wasn't until late 2022 that he started to display his full offensive prowess. For the remainder of the year, his stat line was .288-6-19-19-4 with a wOBA of .381 and wRC+ of 146 in 131 PA.

Nine games into the 2023 season, Cruz had already collected 8 H (1 HR), 4 RBI, 7 R, 3 SB, and a BB:K of 7:8. Unfortunately for Cruz, he fractured his left ankle on an awkward slide into home plate on April 9, abruptly ending his 2023 campaign.

Is Cruz healthy now? Will he be ready for Opening Day 2024? If so, do we need to be concerned from a fantasy standpoint about lingering effects? Let's take a look at the latest reports and find an answer.

Oneil Cruz Injury Update

After the injury took place, there was initially hope that the 6-foot-7 shortstop would return at some point in 2023 since it happened so early in the season. That hope faded in August after he began experiencing soreness while running on a treadmill. Rather than rush him back in a season where the Pirates were not in contention, they decided to shut him down and focus on getting him back for 2024.

That plan still appears to be on track. Not only has he completed a throwing, fielding, and hitting regimen, but he's also played in some instructional league games in the Dominican Republic. Cruz has also been sliding into bases, a huge milestone for him.

All signs are pointing to him being ready for Opening Day. Players are generally more optimistic than the team and the doctors, but according to Cruz himself, he's back at 100%.

Pirates manager Derek Shelton also recently affirmed that Cruz is healthy, although he won't play in the Dominican Winter League. The Pirates lost catcher Endy Rodriguez to a torn ACL in November while he was playing in the DWL, so they'll be extra cautious with Cruz.


Oneil Cruz 2024 Fantasy Baseball Outlook

During 2022, the power was on full display, with Cruz hitting a ball with an exit velocity of 122.4 mph while averaging a 91.9 EV (91st percentile). The lefty also had a Barrel% of 15.5%, putting him in the 96th percentile in that category.

The problem, however, was the K%, which stood at 34.9% (well above league average), while the BB% was 7.8% (below average). As mentioned earlier, in the small sample from 2023, he showed signs of improvement in that area, with a 7:8 BB:K in 40 PA. The 17.5% BB% was never going to hold up, but with the 20.0% K%, there was hope that adjustments made were paying off. For what it's worth, over 1933 PA in the minors, he had a 24.6% K% and 9.0% BB%.

With stolen bases up across the league in 2023 as a result of MLB's rule changes, Cruz never got to benefit, although he did steal three bags in 40 PA before the injury. With his projected 553 ABs in 2024, that is a 41 SB pace. He's got the speed to do it too, ranking in the 98th percentile in 2022 with a top sprint speed of 29.9 ft/second.

The 25-year-old is currently being drafted around pick 80, according to NFBC ADP data, which is fair given some of the uncertainty about how rusty he may be to start 2024. As the 10th-ranked SS on RotoBaller, however, he does have enough upside in the HR and SB department to leapfrog a couple of spots by the end of the season. According to RosterResource, he's projected to be the Pirates' leadoff hitter, which should afford him extra ABs over the year, potentially boosting his counting stats.

Hopefully, the youngster can put the injury behind him and reward fantasy managers with a positive return on investment. But even if he doesn't, he should be a very exciting player to watch for years to come.

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