Pirates prospect Oneil Cruz posts bail, faces trial

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CLEVELAND — Pirates prospect Oneil Cruz posted $2 million pesos — $34,000 — in bail for his involvement in a fatal car accident that killed three people earlier this week, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office in the Dominican Republic confirmed Friday to the Post-Gazette.

Reporter Dionisio Soldevila, who is in the Dominican, first reported the news after Cruz’s arraignment before the Traffic Peace Court in Bani concluded Friday afternoon.

Cruz is not jailed but must check in with authorities periodically as a condition of bail.

According to Soldevila, Cruz faces trial and could spend up to five years in prison if convicted.

The incident in question occurred around 1 a.m. Monday, after a curfew that had been put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Driving a white Jeep, Cruz was traveling in the left lane on Sanchez Highway between Bani and San Cristobal when he struck a motorcycle that was carrying three people and had no lights.

All three died, per the report from the General Directorate of Traffic Safety and Land Transportation, known in the Dominican Republic as DIGESETT. They are Jons Sabab, 23; Daniela Perez Garcia, 19; and Deby Beato Charles, 20.

According to a spokeswoman in the attorney general’s office, investigators believed Cruz “presumably had ingested alcohol” before the crash. The spokeswoman said Friday that while Cruz “smelled of alcohol,” transit officials did not perform a test “in the required time” to determine whether or not Cruz was intoxicated, due to what she called a “procedural error.”

Cruz was first supposed to have a virtual hearing Wednesday morning. It was bumped to the afternoon and to Friday after his lawyers asked for a postponement.

The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Cruz to a minor league contract July 2, 2015. The Pirates acquired him and right-handed pitcher Angel German for former reliever Tony Watson July 31, 2017.

Cruz had a breakout year in 2018 with the Class A West Virginia Power, slashing .286/.343/.488 with an .831 OPS, 14 home runs, seven triples, 25 doubles and 59 RBIs in 103 games.

In 2019 Cruz played at three different levels, finishing by playing 35 games with Class AA Altoona. Overall, he hit .298/.356/.475 with eight home runs, 34 RBIs and an .832 OPS across 73 contests.

In spring training, Cruz said his goal was to make the big leagues in 2020. And while he obviously didn’t do that, he did enough to get the attention of Pirates management, including a well-struck double into a heavy wind in March.

Before the incident, Cruz was considered the Pirates’ third-best prospect behind Nick Gonzales and Ke’Bryan Hayes, according to MLB Pipeline, which had him ranked 60th in Major League Baseball.

“We’re excited about Oneil Cruz and the things he did in spring training and getting a chance to get to know him,” general manager Ben Cherington said in March. “Just watching the energy with which he plays, how much fun he has playing, and (it’s) fun watching how hard he hits the ball.”

Cruz spent the 2020 season working out at the Pirates alternate training site in Altoona. Cherington said on Sept. 16 that Class AAA Indianapolis manager Brian Esposito — who oversaw the Altoona group — “empowered Oneil to be in the middle of the group defensively.”

“A lot of the defensive work they were doing there was geared around what we’re trying to do in the big leagues,” Cherington said. “He took a leadership role in that, which is good for him.”

Why Cruz never came to Pittsburgh is a question for Cherington’s next availability with local media.

Cherington previously had said they expected Cruz to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic, although Gregory Polanco earlier this week indicated that he was expecting Cruz at PNC Park when the Altoona camp was closed.

“When we got back from Cincinnati and I saw the other guys that were in Altoona with him, I asked them, ‘Where’s Oneil?’ ” Polanco said. “They told me he went back to the Dominican, and I’m like, ‘Oh, he’s supposed to be here.’ ”

Due to new rules instituted for 2020, the Pirates theoretically could have brought Cruz to Pittsburgh as a member of the taxi squad. Now, it’s unclear when they’ll see one of their top prospects again.


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