Just because it’s November and the Cincinnati Reds haven’t played a game in nearly a month doesn’t mean that there can’t be good news coming out of the organization. On Monday night, just after trick-or-treating ended here in Cincinnati, the Tigres del Licey kicked off their game against Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League (LIDOM). Within that game Elly De La Cruz did more Elly De La Cruz things.

In his first at-bat of the game he crushed a triple to center field. But it wasn’t just a normal triple. The shortstop took the relay throw and threw it away, giving Elly De La Cruz the opportunity to break for the plate and just slide in head first to beat the tag.

Before the night was over for the Cincinnati Reds top prospect he had picked up two singles and a walk to go along with his triple. Through 12 games for Licey he’s hitting .405/.490/.667 with four doubles, two triples, a home run, 13 runs scored, 12 runs batted in, five stolen bases, eight walks, and 11 strikeouts in his 51 plate appearances.

After splitting his season in High-A Dayton with the Dragons and Double-A Chattanooga with the Lookouts where he won the Reds minor league player of the year after hitting .304/.359/.586 with 31 doubles, nine triples 28 home runs, and 47 stolen bases, his performance in the Dominican Winter League is both surprising and not surprising at the same time.

His strikeout-to-walk ratio has been quite strong so far in winter ball, walking at a very high rate as well as cutting down on his strikeouts. The sample size is small, of course, but it’s encouraging. He’s just 20-years-old, missed a season in his development due to the cancellation of the minor league season in 2020, and has skyrocketed through the farm system ever since. He’s relatively inexperienced, but he’s been showing improvements at every level he’s been moved to.

Cincinnati will need to add him to the 40-man roster in a few weeks to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. It’s one of the easiest decisions the team will have to make in very long time. That will get Elly De La Cruz to spring training with the big league club. If he continues to perform like he has in 2022 across the three levels he played at the question will become how can the team keep him off of the big league roster when they head north to Cincinnati for the regular season? That’s still a ways away, but it’s something worth thinking about at this point, too.

34 Responses

  1. CP

    Doug do you think he is ready for the MLB or would he benefit from some more time to develop?

  2. jmb

    He’ll have to spend some time at AAA, I’m sure. No need to rush him to appease a disappointed fan base. Desperation is not the foundation of good decisions.

    • Redsvol

      I agree. He needs to see some sneaky AAAA pitchers in Louisville that don’t throw many fastballs. Major league pitchers throw some nasty breaking stuff these days. He also needs to improve his infield defense and learn to play some outfield. When I saw him in Chattanooga he was not a polished shortstop.

      I would hope for a June/July callup if he is doing well in Louisville. Gonna be fun to see what he does in the majors. He is a lot like the pirates shortstop but I think his Base running will be more exciting.

      • Jonathan Linn

        @Redsvol – i wonder how many 20 year old’s are polished at defense?! probably not many. Heck Soto is still a terrible OF…yet he is still playing.

  3. LDS

    Wonder if he moves up on the overall MLB prospect list? I think he’s at #14 currently. We know he’ll top Doug’s list next week. It’s the order that follows that will be most interesting.

  4. David

    Elly De La Cruz is an incredibly talented young man.

    From a few interviews I have heard and read, he also seems pretty intelligent. He has been dedicated to becoming a Major Leaguer since he was 12 years old. And I don’t mean day-dreaming about it.
    A few years ago, he was 5’11” tall. Since then, he has grown to 6’5″ tall. Tall for a shortstop. But…he does WANT to play shortstop in the Bigs.
    I am sure he could be a really great CF or RF if he worked at it, but he DOES want to play shortstop.
    I think he is ready for the ML, but will probably play a couple months in AAA for two reasons:
    1) puts off arbitration years
    2) he touches base in AAA, and does see some better pitching; he can get off to a good start hitting

  5. Optimist

    Q for Doug – how much of a AAA pitching sample size does he need? 100 ab, 200, 300? Hard to believe his defense is bad enough to matter, so doesn’t it come down to showing plate discipline in AAA? Seems he’s approaching Kris Bryant territory, but Bryant had an entire year, split evenly, dominating AA and AAA. If EDLC is dominating AAA through June 1st he gets the callup.

    • Harry Stoner

      If it were up to me, I’d start EdC in AA and work to have him seeing as many sliders, curves and offspeed pitching as possible.

      If that works better in AAA then do so then.

      Not off a ‘slider machine’ but in game situations. Line up whatever collection of junk ball pitchers you can to work with him.

      Don’t let him see a fastball for a couple months.

      He’s ahead of the curve (pun intended) with pitching at the level he’s at. But that doesn’t necessarily even translate to AAA.

      We can’t afford another Aquino or Barrero who are tortured with offspeed or breaking balls and can only hit mistaken hanging pitches or the extremely rare fastball they see.

      Sure, I’m excited and anxious to see EdC in MLB, but I’m not impatient about it.

      Particularly given the difficulties we’ve see Reds players make the adjustment to MLB pitchers.

      • Optimist

        EDLC had 200PAs in AA last year and did extremely well – the only concern being the 4:1 K/BB ratio.

        Without a precise pitch analysis, I’d expect he’d see much better off-speed stuff at AAA, from a lot of MLB pitchers, borderline or rehabbin., That level of competition seems to be the only item missing in his repertoire. If he starts in AA, that says he’d be a Sept. MLB callup. If they want to be aggressive for a mid-season callup he needs to start at AAA.

      • Doug Gray

        I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that, if he’s healthy to begin the year, there’s no chance he starts in Double-A.

  6. old-school

    Would not bother me to see EDLC at SS and Marte at 3b as a young duo on the left side of the infield.

    Keith Law has an article up on the AFL and his observations. On Marte- Looked very good at 3b on a few hard hit balls with a plus arm. McLain disappointing with hard contact and above avg runner but “definitely” moves to second base.

    Hinds whiffs a lot and hits it hard when he does but strikes out 40% of the time which wont play.

    • David

      My uneducated guess is that Christian Encarnacion Strand (known by many as CES), (21 now) would be at third, sooner than Marte (22 now), and Spencer Steer (24 now) might be at 2nd base. CES will be at AAA in 2023, and Marte will be at AA in 2023.
      Alex McGarry (24 now, ended the year briefly at AAA) might be at 1st base….in 2023. Or CES goes to first and Marte goes to third if Alex doesn’t pan out. Or who does pan out?
      And EDLC of course, plays short.

      I have already seen talk of Jonathan India moving to Left Field.

      Speculation: Fraley learns to play 1st, DH, left field? Siani is a true centerfielder, and can run like the wind and steal bases. I think Fairchild would be a good rightfielder, and he can run too.

      But…but…but…where does Kyle Farmer play????? 🙁

      • AJ from Hamilton

        Farmer is likely to be traded this off-season, unless the Reds uncharacteristically decide he’s worth the $6 million he’s likely to make in arbitration (based on the usually very accurate MLB Trade Rumors estimate). They might see if he’s interested in something like two years at $8-10 million, but I think that’s unlikely. Remember, too, that he was a late bloomer–he turns 33 in August. If you could get a decent and much younger bullpen arm or outfielder for him, now might be the time to do it. But in the off-chance they keep him, he is probably most valuable as a guy who bounces around the infield with no set position and still gets his 400 ABs.

      • Harry Stoner

        I like your projected positioning and as you say, it is going to play out over at least a couple years before falling into place.

        Plenty of time to ease Farmer into another role and ease Bell into accepting that as well.

        But the Reds should set some clear benchmarks and communicate them to all involved.

        Particularly to Bell and Farmer.

        Which hopefully doesn’t translate into signing Farmer to a multi year contract this off season.

        That would be a sign of cluelessness at the Krall level and further chaos down the line.

        Bell no doubt drools over the prospect of having an ever shifting array of multi-position players to shuffle around as he “manages” the team.

        I’m yet to be convinced that is a winning strategy or one that translates into steady or improved hitting production.

      • David

        Well, it was actually sarcasm about Kyle Farmer. 🙂
        I really don’t care if he is playing or not.

        Kyle is a really good guy, and may be valuable to have around in his original role as a utility guy, and also as mature guy that the younger players look to for some leadership.

        And….I think the projected positions can fall into place before the 2023 season is over. Steer is already here. Siani had a cup of coffee at the end of 2022, and who knows where he might be in 2023. AAA? or with the BIG CLUB.
        EDLC will be up soon in 2023, and CES might follow.

      • AMDG

        Put Kyle Farmer back at catcher, where his 70 ~ 90 OPS+ would be seen as a good thing. It would be an upgrade over Garcia, Papierski, Robinson & Romine.

      • Harry Stoner

        Steer is an example of developmental problems at play.

        Bell played him all over the field as he just dreams of doing.

        Steer hit .211 in ~100 abs. You take away his awesome debut game and his likely under the Mendoza.

        His K rate is about 25%.

        I wouldn’t count on him being “here” just yet.

        Siani’s ‘cup of coffee’ was from a bus station vending machine.

        Neither one can even be penciled in with any confidence at this point.

        A long way to go to get out of this mess.

    • MBS

      @Old, I think that’s the infield by some point in 24. 1B seems to be CES and McGarry’s job to compete for, with the DH as a fallback position for one of them.

      If EDLC pushes Barrero out of SS, and they haven’t given up on him, and I doubt they do, maybe Barrero moves to a corner OF with Siani in CF, and Friedl/Fraley covering the other corner, and 4th OF.

      I’m guessing India might be trade bait come this years trade deadline, while Stephenson gets extended.

      • Chris

        Trading India would be just foolish. I never understand the mindset of always wanting to jettison players for new unproven players. India will bounce back next season as a fully healthy player. Stephenson and India are the only clear position players on this team right now.

      • MBS

        I am not saying they should, or I want India traded. I just think he’s the last piece that’s likely to move before the next competitive window opens. If Krall is allowed to spend real money in 23, then I’d revise my guess.

      • Votto4life

        Chris, I agree completely, but people here,
        are always eager to trade proven major league talent for some magic beans. People seem to become addicted to losing.

      • MBS

        @Votto, You’ve disregarded the word “guessing” even after it was clearly written out 2 times.

        As of today no one knows what will happen to the team in 23, and into the future. Bob could sell, Bob could increase payroll, or Bob could cut even further. Guessing along is the only thing we can do as of today. The offseason moves will start to tell us what to expect going forward.

      • Votto4life

        @MBS I don’t think guessing is required, you are completely in tuned with how this organization operates.

      • BK

        I tend to agree with MBS’s point. Ideally, our prospects generate a surplus in an area, and then the Reds can use that surplus to improve another area on the team. Middle infield is the deepest area within our farm now. Anticipating that a veteran would be traded from an area of surplus isn’t the same as advocating to flip a player like India for prospects, nor is it a sign that the team is not trying to compete.

  7. Kurt

    I am wondering how you would compare the dominican winter league to the Farm system competition wise. It looks like most the player have AAA to limited MLB experience. Would be equivalent to AAA/AAAA?

  8. TR

    It looks like an interesting Red’s spring training coming up in February. I’ve noticed a certain abscence of intensity from management in ST the last few years. Hopefully that will change with all the aspiring prospects.

  9. Votto4life

    How about letting EDLC hit AAA for a year before promoting his to the big league club? I am not overly concerned about the strikeouts,
    But striking out 1/3 in AA offers an opportunity for improvement. That would be 40% or more in the majors. EDLC is not needed in Cincinnati in 2023. Let the man develop his craft.

  10. Mark Moore

    Love to see him shine down there. He’ll definitely be one to watch when ST rolls around and we see how he’s progressed. AAA start for him unless the planets all align perfectly (or great cracks appear in the earth’s surface and swallow him up).

  11. Oldtimer

    Way back when, it’s happened before but more often with pitchers.

    Jim O’Toole in 1959. Jim Maloney in 1960. Gary Nolan in 1966. Don Gullett in 1970.

    Position players, not as much. Pete Rose in 1963. Maybe others. Not many get to the Reds without playing AAA. Reggie Sanders in early 1990s is another example.

    Not the Reds but Joe Morgan made it to Houston in 1963. It was his first year in baseball. He finally stuck (all year) in 1965.

  12. Optimist

    Guessing they sign a few 1-year veteran contracts – akin to Pham/Drury/Solano, or pickup another Naquin off waivers. Start the year with TySteve, Votto, India, Farmer/FA, Moose in the infield; the 3 F’s and Aquino in the OF. Have all the prospects in AAA – Siani, Steer, Barrero, CES, EDLC and others. Let them all go into May and start the promotions and trades into the break. If the pitching holds up without injuries or flops, and they have a decent record (it is the NL Central after all), be selective in timing callups. If they’re floundering, dump veterans and call up more faster. Get into September with the rookies having 200-300 PAs each. Get ready for 2024.

  13. Mark

    I think the reds should look to include McLain in a trade. He seems to underwhelm and his stats are just ok. Maybe he turns into something maybe not but he might be a nice piece to use in a trade to get another young pitching prospect or outfield prospect we seem heavy on infield prospects compared to outfield.

    • Harry Stoner

      McLain was an odd draft choice in my book.

      He’s shown some punch and been a productive, if low BA hitter in AA.

      Pretty small guy to expect that to translate to MLB.

      ST 2023 ST be interesting for McLain.

      You can bet Bell will have him playing a different position every day as he did with Steer and his BA will be similarly Mendoza bound.

      But who’s going to trade for him?

  14. Rednat

    EDLC is the cream of the crop for sure. And even he is a little raw. our other prospects are iffy at best from what i have seen in Dayton and Chattanooga. I got a feeling the Castillo and Mahle trade will be called Cueto trade “part 2 and 3”.

    watching the world series it is clear you need veteran position players to succeed. unfortunately they are too expensive for our reds to afford it seems. it just seems far fetched to think we can survive on young prospects as position players alone.

    • Votto4life

      I tend to agree. I’m not sure what the Reds received in the Winker/Suarez trade other than a platoon outfielder and salary dump. I suppose Brandon Williamson was the target, but he sure seems to walk a ton of batters.