If you haven’t heard of Elly De La Cruz by now and you’re a Cincinnati Reds fan then we’ve got to question which rock you’ve been hiding under. De La Cruz is arguably the most talked about prospect in all of minor league baseball over the last two seasons, coming out of nowhere to being one of the best prospects in the game. Fangraphs wrote this about him back in February:

But if De La Cruz “booms,” it could be a boom on par with the one that created the universe.

I’ve been covering the Reds farm system for 17 years now. Along with that I keep tabs on the larger scale of prospects in all of baseball and I can’t remember something like that being said about another prospect before – Reds or not.

Of course, if you read that sentence you’ll notice that it begins with “But”. Here’s what the paragraph that sentence was pulled from began with:

Calling De La Cruz a boom or bust prospect understates his range of outcomes. His 4% walk rate in full-season ball is a ruby red flag, near the bottom of the statistical barrel, and hard evidence of an extremely aggressive approach that has been the undoing of several talented players before him.

And that isn’t incorrect, either. Players who don’t walk tend to struggle to hit in the big leagues unless they also come with an absolutely elite level of making contact. That was never going to be Elly De La Cruz, who at somewhere between 6′ 5″ and 6’7″ tall has a strikezone that almost guarantees plenty of strikeouts.

Still, what De La Cruz did last season was almost unheard of. He went from a prospect that was not ranked among the top 30 prospects by any publication in the Reds own farm system before the season to a Top 100 prospect in all of baseball when the year was completed and he did so by doing things on the field that were almost mythical in nature. The speed, the power (watch him hit a 491-foot home run right here), the arm strength – things that if a player only had one of would jump off of a scouting report in a big, big way, but he had all of it and then some.

Despite a small amount of actual playing time on the field, the Reds sent a 20-year-old with 104 professional games under his belt to High-A Dayton to begin the year. And at times you could see some of the inexperience and struggles against more advanced pitchers. But if you watched him on a daily basis you could also see the adjustments at the plate that he was making even if they weren’t necessarily showing up in the stats.

Through the first 48 games of the season – all with the Dayton Dragons – Elly De La Cruz hit the ball well. He had 203 plate appearances in that span and he hit .287/.325/.563 with 10 doubles, 5 triples, and 11 home runs. He hit for average and he hit for plenty of power. But he wasn’t walking all that much. He had just 10 walks to go along with 66 strikeouts. That’s a ratio that very few players have been able to have success with in the long term as a professional baseball player. But as I noted above – if you watched him every day you could see that he was actually making some adjustments.

Those adjustments began to show up in the stats by mid-season. Since June 12th Elly De La Cruz has played in 53 games between High-A Dayton and Double-A Chattanooga. Over that span he’s put up hilarious numbers, much less for a 20-year-old, hitting .337/.402/.688 with 17 doubles, 2 triples, and 17 home runs. That’s also come with 23 walks and 66 strikeouts. His strikeout rate has dropped a small amount between these two time frames, going from 32.5% to 28.8%. You’d like to see that rate keep coming down, but it’s a rate that has been shown to be workable at the highest level of baseball as long as you are contributing in other areas (power, defense, baserunning, ability to walk at times).

But it’s the walk rate that has made huge strides. In those first 48 games he walked just 4.9% of the time. In the 53 games since he’s walked 10% of the time. The walk rate has doubled and it’s gone from a poor rate to a rate that would be better than the league average if it were in the majors (where the league average rate is 8.2% this season).

Being more selective at the plate has allowed Elly De La Cruz to put up video game numbers over the last two-and-a-half months after putting up very good numbers prior to that. There’s still some improvements and adjustments that he will need to make moving forward as he sees better pitchers who can execute their game plan with more consistency, but he’s also shown that he’s made some adjustments along the way and the biggest concern that was on his resume is one that he’s been wiping away.

No player in the Cincinnati Reds farm system dating back to at least 1960 (that’s as far back as I have complete numbers) has ever had a season in which they had 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Elly De La Cruz currently has 28 home runs and 36 steals. Chattanooga has 21 games remaining on their schedule. If he were to be promoted to Louisville that would add an additional nine games as their season is longer and goes through September 28th.

44 Responses

  1. Randy in Chatt

    Wondering if the walk rate will continue to rise as his reputation continues to explode and pitchers are afraid to pitch to him????

    Make sure you have someone or two to protect him in the lineup.

  2. Doc

    How does his arm strength and accuracy compare to Aquino? Realize its a tough comparison of an outfielder versus an infielder, but Aquino defines an 80 arm in what I see.

    • Doug Gray

      Aquino’s got a 70 or 80 arm. De La Cruz has a 70 arm. But they are different kinds of arms because one’s coming from the infield and the other from the outfield.

      • Dewey Roberts

        Doug, when do you expect him to be called up to stay? 2024? Do you expect him to be a better major leaguer than Senzel? Thanks.

  3. JB WV

    Exciting news. If ever the Reds needed a superstar (not trying to get too excited of course) it’s now. Sounds like the coaching staff is doing a good job of helping him make adjustments. Thanks for the update Doug.

  4. Fanman

    The sky is the limit! 5 tool player. Switch hitter. Best prospect since Jay Bruce with alot more speed!

  5. Optimist

    Is there any reason to not promote him to Louisville for those final 9 games? At this point is there any reason not to bat him leadoff just to get a few extra PAs?

    • Doug Gray

      I wouldn’t bat him leadoff, but that’s just me.

      As for not calling him up to Louisville to end the season, there are 2 reasons I can think of: One, you just want him to get some rest after a long season? I know that 9 games probably isn’t much to ask, but it’s a reason I guess. Two: Because you call him up to Cincinnati. I don’t expect that to happen, but it also isn’t the most insane thing I’ve heard today, either. With September roster limits only being expanded to 28 players these days, it makes it less likely.

      • Optimist

        Good points – I’d offer alternatives –

        Just from watching from a few video clips from afar and lots of comments from you and others, he seems to have the right make up/desire/professional attitude to go with whatever changes are thrown at him (to use an appropriate metaphor). Send him to the Bats and get him used to travel on short notice, dealing with unfamiliar circumstances, facing whole new opponents in whole new places, and so forth. Even a week or so is a start.

        That said, is it me or is there a remaining hint of hesitation about what he still needs – namely just more time in MiLB, and more time polishing the defense/position skills. Given the talent shown, those sound like pretty simple tasks – just coaching and experience.

        Still, very short term issues unless he hits a wall – sound like an ETA of 6/1/2023?

  6. David

    Best prospect since Jay Bruce?

    I think De La Cruz is the best prospect since Eric Davis. The guy has a world of talent.

    He has wanted to play baseball (at a professional level) since he was 12 years old, and has aimed all his efforts (with the help of his family) towards that.
    He has also GROWN a lot. A few years ago, he was a young 5’11” tall teenager, and might have been an elite Short-stop, at that size. He is still playing short-stop, but is now 6’5″ (or maybe a little taller). He is getting used to playing in this bigger body now that he has grown up.
    Yes, he could play until Sept 9th at AAA. Or he could play until the first of October with the Reds. I think he is actually “ready” to play at the ML level, although he would really struggle (at first) with the better pitching.
    He should be groomed now to play Centerfield. His size would preclude him from really being a good major league short-stop. With the proper coaching, he could be a great centerfielder. He has all the tools. I think he is in the same talent potential category as Mike Trout. He could be THE player of his generation, like Ken Griffey Jr.
    And there are a couple of other guys coming that could play third base, the natural alternative.

    With his talent and baseball intelligence, I am not worried about his strikeouts and walks. Ted Williams struck out a lot. And…he was the last 0.400 hitter in baseball.

    • Michael


      You do remember that Jay Bruce was the #1 prospect in baseball at age 21 post 2008 season? He posted roughly a 1,000 ops over his age 20 season at three levels plus his two months at AAA starting his age 21 season. If you want to compare the tools with Davis I am buying it but there is nothing wrong with saying the best prospect since Bruce since he was the #1 prospect in baseball.

    • Doug Gray

      I’ll back up the “Best Prospect Since Jay Bruce” thing. Bruce was the #1 prospect in baseball after the 2007 season. He put up similar numbers to Elly De La Cruz, but also did so at Triple-A for the final two months of the year.

      From a tools standpoint, Elly’s just different than almost everyone. Bruce, however, at the time had plenty of above-average to plus tools. He was still very fast at that time and could play center.

      I think that two month stretch in Triple-A is what keeps him ever so slightly ahead of De La Cruz right now in terms of “best prospect since” status. And let’s also not forget that for the first two months of 2008, Bruce hit .364/.393/.630 in Triple-A before he was called up to the big leagues. He was doing incredible things.

      That said, I can understand, and even make the argument that Elly’s the better prospect. I just think that sometimes people forget what Jay Bruce was doing at the end of his prospect time.

  7. RedsGettingBetter

    Excellent article and analysis by Mr. Doug. Is EDLC going to be the best Reds prospect at least in the last 60 years? I think he is better than Bruce was and maybe better than Erick Davis too?

    • Doug Gray

      So right now Elly De La Cruz, in terms of where he’s ranked by media companies worth listening to, isn’t on the same level of prospect as Jay Bruce, Nick Senzel, Aroldis Chapman, or Homer Bailey. All of those guys were ranked as Top 10 prospects by nearly everyone, with Bruce and Senzel being in the top 5.

      Now, the #1 prospect one year may not be equivalent to the #1 prospect in other years…. so it’s not always a 1-to-1 comparison. That said, Baseball America has him outside of the top 10 currently. Tough to try and make the argument that with that ranking he should be unquestionably regarded as on par with Bruce or Senzel. As I noted above in another reply – I think you can make the argument for it, but I also don’t think we should be certain with our statements about it.

  8. Jeffrey Oakley

    And yet he and all the other “top prospects” languish in the minors while others move up and on quickly. I do not want to hear he is too young or that guy needs this or that. The success of this guy along with the guy at AAA to go along with the evaluations of those gotten intrades exposes the other lie the carneys Castellinis tell us. You can argue all the stuff they have fed us over the years but when it is exposed it is the fact that they don’t want the clock to start on these guys. Either they can’t afford that or they are too cheap.
    I know there will be arguments with this but my reply will be one word that can’t be argued with.. Braves… All long term contracts under value for guys that are all under 25.

    How good of a minor league system do you have Reds…put your money where your mouth is. I won’t hold my breath.

    • greenmtred

      He’s what, 20 years old? He’s briefly played at AA? That doesn’t seem like languishing. And, as Doug said, he’s making adjustments with the help of the coaches.

      • Jeffrey Oakley

        Look at the ages of the Braves who came up and signed long term this year, quit drinking the Kool-aid.

      • greenmtred

        What Doug said. And I’ll add that Elly’s issue has been a miniscule walk rate. Do you think he’d have much luck correcting that against MLB pitching?

    • Doug Gray

      I can argue with it all day long. But I won’t waste too much time doing so: Elly De La Cruz had never played a single game in the United States until 14 months ago. He’s been rushed up the ladder faster than just about anyone in the minors over the last 14 months and somehow you are still complaining that it’s not fast enough.

      If the Reds called up Elly tomorrow, great. I’d have no problem with it. But if they don’t call him up until next spring or summer, I probably won’t have a problem with it then, either.

      • Chris

        Spot on. There is a lot to complain about when discussing this Reds team and it’s ownership, but the movement of Elly certainly isn’t one of them.

      • David


        In fairness, I think you have written (or someone on this website) that he, among others, had to be on the 40 man roster this winter to protect him from Rule 5 draft status.
        So if he is placed on the 40 man roster, I think he sees a lot of time with the ML squad next spring. I think he plays in AAA next spring, and sometime next summer gets called up to the Reds.
        I am just very anxious to see him. He really is a once in a generation talent. And as others (smarter than me) have also said that Hunter Greene is a once in a generation talent.
        And you are correct in comparing him to how Jay Bruce hit at the top of the minors (AAA), but I just think (and probably a lot of people smarter than me) that he is just MORE talented than Jay Bruce.

        I know this season has been Uber! discouraging, but I think the future is very bright for the Reds. 2023 could be very interesting, and they could actually be very competitive in 2024, with a little luck and using their budget in winter 2023- spring 2024 to sign some good relievers.

      • MuddyCleats

        Seen him recently in AA. Had a decent game, showed great athleticism and speed, but did have a thrown error from deep n the hole at SS. With his long strides and long, pitcher like, throwing motion, I don’t see this kid staying in the INF. Comparison to Eric Davis is a good one and further indicates to me his long term position is in CF or RF. If the Reds agree, he needs to spend time in the minors adjusting to the OF which another reason NOT to rush this kid.

  9. DataDumpster

    Gee, didn’t realize Senzel was ranked that high. His max altitude now seems greatly deflated. I’m glad he has been reasonably healthy and able to perform well this year, but his all around play is at best average. As for De La Cruz, seems like a reasonable proposition would have him learn to play CF and perhaps break in mid season 2023 with the Reds if that’s practical.
    I don’t know the development circumstances but Harris and Grissom of the Braves are both tearing it up as 20 year olds.

    • DataDumpster

      Sorry, correction they are both 21.

    • Michael

      Seems so long ago but at 22 Senzel destroyed AA with a 973 ops and then followed it up by putting up an 887 at AAA. Then for service time reasons the reds did not bring him with the big league club in 2019, he screwed up his ankle in an extended spring training game on a crap field and it feels like it has been all down hill since.

    • jon

      Performed well this year? What is the fascination with Senzel? He’s hitting .245-.307-.626 with a whopping 4 hrs and 22 big rbi’s.lol.

  10. Old-school

    Krall has made the right moves last 2 months but with Stephenson out, Votto injured and previously struggling, there’s been little “hope” at the MLB level and AAA level as fans try to project winning in the future. I still fully believe in India as a solid core MLB player. The 3 young SP + Diaz in the BP give a lot of hope. But after that…ugh. Fraley has a shot at being a contributor. Barrero looks good defensively but is obviously struggling to hit. I like Senzel changing to a super utility role which might prolong his career as we’ve learned he is not a franchise CF. Friedl might be a good 4th/5th OF but there’s not a lot of hope positionally for young game changing, franchise headliners at AAA or the MLB level. Reds fans desperately need a 5 tool young player with energy and personality and swag and Elly has it.

    Id like to see him switch to CF and and be the Reds captain of the OF for 6-8 years, catching balls in the gap, throwing runners out at home and leaping over fences to bring back home runs at 6’5”.

    If the Reds were to do that, when would they make that position change? You cant do that at the major league level when they call him up can you? Thats a fall/ winter AZ transition is it not and wouldn’t that be this off-season if it were to happen?

    If they change positions, I think I would finish early at AA and give him a rest and then head to Arizona in October.

    • Chris

      Yep, and as soon as he gets hurt, many in this forum will blame the organization for moving him to CF. I agree with you on the move, but people will complain when he breaks a nail. Like Senzel, people blame the organization for moving him to the outfield for all his injuries, which is just ridiculous.

    • Jim Walker

      Your plan sounds good; but, recall this is the Reds we are talking about. They will have him chase a fungos and shag fly balls at batting practice then declare him ready with the fine points to be learned under fire in games, hopefully at least in spring training or AAA and not MLB.

  11. TR

    There’s a hint of Willie Mays, for me, in the description of Ely De La Cruz. I saw Mays play many a game at Crosley Field and Shea Stadium.

    • Old-school

      You got Eric Davis on staff who is publicly in his corner and there’s that Griffey guy too who played a decent CF and wore a Reds uniform for awhile. Have Griffey and Davis mentor him at the Arizona complex with the reds outfield coaches.

      Some of the games best athletes and players manned CF-Mays,Mantle, Pinson, Griffey, Trout, Eric the Red,Cesar Cedeno, McCutcheon, Torri Hunter, Kirby Puckett.

  12. Klugo

    Does he project as an MLB corner outfielder?

    • Doug Gray

      No. He projects as a shortstop who could play anywhere else on the field if you asked him to (except catcher).

  13. LDS

    If the Reds hold true to form, it will be 2-5 years before he’s in Cincy. As for his SO rate, Schmidt SO’d at a 30%+ rate in 22 & 23 season. For his career, he finished at 18.7%

  14. BK

    Is the improved walk-to-strikeout rate because he’s improved his plate discipline or because pitchers are pitching around him?

    • David

      Good question, but impossible to answer unless you were able to watch him play every day.
      My guess is….BOTH! I think, from what I have read, that he is a very intelligent young man (not just an instinctive athlete) and is learning constantly.
      He has also grown a lot in the last couple years, and is learning how to play in that bigger body. With the growth, his strike zone is bigger. He has such great bat speed that he probably thinks he can reach pitches he should really not swing at.
      And in fairness, I have seen George Foster and Johnny Bench, in their primes, hit balls out of the strike zone for home runs. On a day in 1977, George hit three homers on the day, and he was in such a groove, he stepped hard to his left and swatted a curve that was inside (out of the zone) out of the park.
      Johnny hit a homer on a low fastball off of Vida Blue in the 1972 World Series (I think it was Game Six). After the game, Blue said it was out of the strike zone. But…whatever.

      • BK

        I’m not trying to be negative at all, and I agree, that his improvement may be related to both of the notions I’m asking about. I don’t think it’s true that one would have watched his games. The AA and A+ parks have tracking systems that are useful in answering this question–I’m just too lazy to learn how to look up this data.

    • Jim Walker

      If pitchers are pitching around him at least he has developed the skills and patience to recognize and take the pitches. That’s a big plus on its own. I guess the question is can he do the same when he starts facing AAA and MLB pitchers who can make their out of the zone stuff more enticing and harder to lay off of?

  15. Mark Moore

    The depth of prospects will be fun to watch. EDLC is the top one to keep an eye on. I’m right with Doug regarding when he comes up to Cincy. And given his only 14 months in the US system, don’t rush him, please. Just keep him advancing.

    • JayTheRed

      I’d start him at AA next season see how he does the first month or two and then move him up to AAA in maybe June. I feel like he could play at the MLB level come September next year, but it depends on what The Reds are doing at the time.

  16. Magnum 44

    Love me some Elly want to see him stick at short but if they play him in centerfield I don’t care, but I want more position versatility. Billy Hamilton would be on a roster right now if they didn’t pigeon hole him as a centerfielder that guy could play ss 2nd base it cost him alot of money

    • Redsvol

      I watched him play couple games in Chattanooga and I just can’t see him playing short in the majors on a good. team. He could play it but he would give many runs back with his defense. He just isn’t graceful like a trea turner or bogaerts or Lindor. I feel there truly is an optimum size to be a top defensive shortstop. And shortstop is a key defensive position / just like catcher and center field.

      He is a very talented athlete and very glad he is doing well in AA. Let’s see how he does with a position change and give him a few month in AAA learning it. It’s not like we are competing for a playoff spot next year.

  17. Jim m.

    I am seeing De la Cruz as a outfielder with The two SS they got from Seattle coming thru the system.. I hope he makes the team out of spring training next season. Force the Reds to bring him north. Just like India..