Let me introduce you to one of the best prospects in the entire MLB system: Elly De La Cruz. He is currently the top prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization as well as being a consensus top 10 prospect in all of baseball. De La Cruz wasn’t always this highly touted prospect though. In fact, he was signed by the Reds in 2018 and didn’t crack their top 30 prospect list until 2022. He didn’t make his United States debut until 2021. Although he took a while to make his name known in the Reds organization, he went from an unranked Reds prospect to their number one rated prospect in one season.
A Special Kind of Outlier
At the first glance, there are a few things that jump off the page about the Reds top prospect, Elly De La Cruz. The first thing that many people notice about Elly is his incredible size. Standing at 6 foot 5 inches and weighing over 200 pounds, Elly resembles more of a basketball player than a shortstop. To go along with his size, he is a switch-hitting shortstop. Switch hitting is one of the most valuable tools to a Major League club, as it often eliminates any idea of platooning a player with the handedness of the opposing pitcher.
After looking at his physical stature, it would be easy to imagine that he is an outlier in terms of the physical aspects of the game. That assumption would prove to be incredibly correct.
In fact, in 2021 Elly hit a ball 117.5 MPH. He routinely will exceed 100 MPH exit velocity while being above 110 from time to time. This high-end power is ridiculously unheard of for a 21-year-old prospect. On the other side of the ball, in 2023, De La Cruz, playing third base at the time, fielded a ground ball and fired it 99.2 MPH across the infield. This was good for the hardest throw by an infielder in Triple-A or the MLB. One of the most underrated parts of his game is his speed. He grades as a 60-grade runner, according to MLB. De La Cruz has shown the ability to turn a single into a double and a double into a triple.
He has that kind of special ability.
Is He Major League Ready?
The expectation for De La Cruz is that he will make his MLB debut this season. This idea has been increasingly more likely as the left side of the Reds infield has mightily struggled to produce. Spencer Steer, Kevin Newman, and Jose Barrero have all struggled at the plate this year. This struggle has left the Reds fanbase eager to meet their top prospect, more than likely to play third base, leaving shortstop open to another top Reds prospect, Matt McLain.
That leaves the question; is he even Major League ready yet?
That is a tough question to answer, as the 21-year-old has only played 15 games at the Triple-A level. This question becomes even more complex when his 15 games of Triple-A are evaluated a bit more. He has shown the fact that he is a high strikeout guy, as he has struck out in 24 of his 70 Triple-A at bats. Most alarming would be the first 5 games of the year, in which he would only hit 2/22 with 1 extra base hit. Thankfully for baseball fans, this cold streak would only last those five games. Since then, in the previous 10, he has hits in 9 of those games, including 5 multi-hit games and 7 extra-base-hits.
The future of the Reds is seen in Elly De La Cruz. When he makes his MLB debut, we will see if he can continue as one of the most exciting players in baseball.
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