Seeing Oneil Cruz's name in the news has become routine during the 2022 season. The Dominican, who is a contender for the National League Rookie of the Year, does things on the field that make us doubt his human condition.
Oneil Cruz is the only player in MLB history to throw a ball, hit a ball, and run to first base, all at speeds of 100mph or higher. He already has the hardest-hit ball and fastest throw to be recorded in the Statcast era.
At 23 years old, Cruz still has plenty of room for improvement, hitting .218 with 94 strikeouts in 255 PA in 2022. What is certain is that the "supernatural" conditions are there for him to become a great ballplayer in the coming years.
Destroying Baseballs as a Habit
The Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop hits the ball with violence never before seen in the major leagues. Last month against the Braves, Cruz blasted a base hit that clocked at 122.4mph off the bat, surpassing New York Yankees power hitter Giancarlo Stanton’s previous record of 122.2mph. Cruz's hit is the most violent measured in the StatCast era, which began collecting data in 2015.
Managers from both the Braves and Pirates were full of praise for Cruz after the historic hit.
"Oh, my God. It’s probably good that ball hit a wall because it might have hurt somebody if it had been up a little higher," Braves’ manager Brian Snitker said. "He hit it hard. It was just a matter of if it was going to get out or not. I think it hit right underneath on the sign, but, yeah, that ball was scorched," Pirates’ Derek Shelton said.
A few days ago, Oneil Cruz blasted a two-run moonshot into the Allegheny River on a one-handed swing. The New York Mets’ pitcher Tommy Hunter wished he hadn't thrown that payoff curveball near the Dominican, as the ball left the park after the thunderous contact.
Cruz's long ball hung in the air for 6.6 seconds, as it was the 67th home run to find its way into the Allegheny River since PNC Park opened in 2001.
That same game, Cruz ripped a 115.3 mph line drive double, his sixth-hardest-hit ball of the season. In his run from second base to the plate, Cruz posted a speed of 30.7 feet per second (30.0 feet per second is considered elite).
Cruz is Changing the Game
Except for a few cases, we are used to seeing not-so-big players at shortstop and second base, because it is something that has its logic. With little height, they can get to ground balls faster, and with less size, they have more speed to cover more ground in the infield.
The Dominican has an actual cannon for an arm, making the fastest throw ever recorded by an infield in the Statcast era, reaching a speed of 97.8mph, surpassing his own mark achieved in his first game of 2022, where he reached 96.7mph.
If we consider the combination of his elite speed and the ground covered, we can conclude that the Dominican is a special case.