Cincinnati Reds prospect Elly De La Cruz was named the top prospect in baseball today by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel. The article is behind the ESPN+ paywall, but if you have that, you can check out the list here.

At this point in time it’s no surprise that Elly De La Cruz has ascended to the top spot. No one has questioned the tools since he came out of nowhere in the spring and summer of 2021 and he’s just gotten better and better ever since. Entering 2023 there were some questions about how much he could refine his plate discipline. After a slow start in his first five games he’s gotten on track and he’s spent a little more than a month facing the best pitching minor league baseball has in Triple-A and he’s set a career best in walks for a month – he has 15 of them in 18.5 games during May (he’s walked once today, but the game is still ongoing as I write this). He’s struck out just 19 times in 91 plate appearances – cutting down on his strikeout rate in a big way, too. And he’s done all of that while being one of the youngest players in Triple-A.

The list saw several other Reds get mentioned. McDaniel only rated the top 50 prospects in the game in this update, but one of the biggest risers on the list was Matt McLain. He’s now in the big leagues, but he has prospect eligibility left. He went from unranked in the Top 100 preseason rankings and not even a “50 FV” prospect – which is basically saying an every day big leaguer – to being ranked as the 19th best prospect in baseball. His swing change was cited by McDaniel, and of course his numbers have been nothing short of incredible this season.

Noelvi Marte also found himself in the top 50, checking in at #48 on the list. After a bit of a slump in mid-April, he’s turned things up to 11 over the last month. He’s hitting .284/.359/.514 with eight doubles, a triple, eight home runs, and eight steals for Double-A Chattanooga. He was named as the Southern League Player of the Week for the second time in May on Monday. Marte is 2nd in the league in home runs, 6th in average, 8th in slugging, and 10th in OPS.

37 Responses

  1. Optimist

    Anyone else wondering when Marte makes his MLB debut. I’ve been thinking one of the Sept. callups. Could it be sooner?

    • mac624

      I’d be pretty surprised if Marte sees any MLB time this season. Let’s see how he does in AAA before thinking he’s anywhere close to ready for MLB time. Personally, I think he’s at least 1 year from now away from getting the call if he continues on the track, he’s on.

      • Optimist

        I’ll be surprised if he’s NOT one of the two September callups. IIRC, they used it for Siani last season, and Marte is a much likelier prospect long-term. That said, I won’t be surprised if he doesn’t return full-time until later 2024.

        Still, when EDLC is called up, his natural replacment on the Bats is Marte, even if he’s then moved to 3b for defensive experience. If he then goes out and wallops AAA pitching, why wouldn’t they move him sooner?

      • Mike

        The way he’s handling the tacked ball in AA is promising, though

      • DaveCT

        Optimist, I’m with you completely on Marte. I’ve watched him a bunch this year (thank you, and he is a very impressive player. Plus, with the amount they’ve been batting him leadoff (more at bats), I’d say they are mostly waiting for space to clear at AAA. The guy looks physically mature, even though he’s just in his age 21 season. The power is real. And he’s a guy who will fill up a box score and stat sheet. Assuming he continues to mash (he will), the next step with be the steady diet of off speed breaking stuff from AAAA pitchers. And, like Elly, he may just start taking his walks.

    • wkuchad

      I would not consider it for this year.

    • Mark Moore

      Keep in mind the call-up rules changed. They can’t add everybody and his brother like in the old days. So space will be limited.

      • Optimist

        Oh yes – that’s why I keep adding, “one of two callups”. Who is a better candidate – knowing it’s more for acclimation than actual valuable game experience.

  2. CFD3000

    So that’s… pretty good, right?

    How about dropping the third catcher and replacing him with EDLC? It’s time. Can’t wait. And yes, he’ll likely struggle at first – most rookies do. But the sooner he starts learning and adapting, the sooner he starts contributing. Goodness know Myers, Newman and Casali aren’t. Barrero too, although he at least has a high ceiling. Or, Newman has options. Let’s stash him at AAA as injury insurance and start EDLC learning MLB pitching!

    • David

      Newman is getting paid approx. $2mill, so he is not getting “optioned” to AAA. Traded or released. The sooner the better.

      The Wil Myers experience is also just about played out. I don’t think he is going to get any better or get “hot”. This is who he is, at this point in his career. I think we were all hoping for a Brandon Drury of 2023, but that is not what happened. I don’t think the Reds were dumb to sign him, but at some point in the next month, they would be dumb to think he is going to turn the corner.

      I am sure that the “top men” with the Reds still think that CES and EDLC have “things to work on”. And you know, that is just total sarcasm. They are quite aware of his talent and ability, but have other roster pieces to move around to get them both up here.
      I actually think CES is ready now to join the Reds, and a place on the roster should be found to put in on the 40 man and bring him up.
      EDLC is already on the 40 man. Just need to find him a place on the 26 man roster and bring him up; my guess is the end of June or the 1st of July. Friedl back on the field again makes the outfield situation a bit clearer.
      I would guess that Joey Votto will begin another 20 day rehab stint at AAA at about any time. If he still can’t hit well and field, then the Reds are going to have fish or cut bait with him. The Votto situation, when cleared up, makes the other decisions more consequential. Or rather, if not Joey, then CES, and then EDLC.

      Casali is a fine game catcher, and has had a positive influence catching the Reds pitchers. He just can’t hit ML pitching anymore. He does contribute something positive, but it is not as obviously measurable. “BK” put up some numbers the other day, indicating the difference in games where Casali was the catcher.
      One of the three catchers kind of has to go, and it’s not going to be Stephenson. Again, it was not a dumb decision to start with three catchers, as no one was quite sure how strong Stephenson was going to be, after breaking his collarbone last summer. But I guess he is feeling fine now.

  3. Melvin

    The question is why isn’t the #1 prospect in baseball playing for the Cincinnati Reds? Even a well balances well oiled offensive machine like the Reds have should be able to find room somewhere right? 😉

    • wkuchad

      Being the #1 prospect doesn’t necessarily mean he’s ready for the majors. But in this case, I think it’s time to find out.

    • David

      There are a group of players, on the so-called “bubble”, IMHO.
      Jose Barrero, a highly regarded prospect, is under performing at the ML level. He could be traded (and not get much) or optioned to AAA and play and “get hot” down there.
      Wil Myers, is not hitting and not likely going to hit. Eat the rest of his $7 mil contract and release him, or watch him flail away for the rest of the summer.
      Kevin Newman, $2 mill SS, who was the bridge from Barrero to EDLC. If EDLC is ready, Newman can leave. Who wants him? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
      Stuart Fairchild, is a good outfielder, can play all around, and a valuable guy…off the bench. I would like him to get more AB’s, but will he get any better? Does he go back to AAA?
      Henry Ramos, older player, but without many ML AB’s. Right now on the DL, but, will he get better? What happens when he comes back? DFA’d, re-assigned, released, keep him?
      3 catchers come into Thunder Dome, but only two leave. One is Stephenson. Can you name the other?

      • wkuchad

        I don’t understand everyone wanting to get rid of Newman. Why?

        He’s started less than half the games this year. He’s playing even less since McLain called up. He would play even less with De La Cruz called up. But you still need a bench players. He seems like a solid choice – plays solid defense at multiple infield positions and has strong splits (which I think is great in a bench bat), hitting lefties well.

        Seems silly to drop him for nothing. We don’t want one of our young prospects sitting on the bench.

      • Melvin

        Option him if you can’t trade him.

      • BK

        For the record, Newman lacks the requisite service time to refuse an option.

      • LDS

        If Newman is the answer, what is the question? Because I can’t think of one and neither can any other team in the league. Send him to AAA until the season is over then don’t re-sign him.

      • J

        Wk, Newman is a perfectly fine guy to have on the bench. I don’t understand why people don’t appreciate that. You don’t want a rookie sitting on the bench, you want a guy who’s not going to be damaged by not starting, and a guy who can run decently, hit decently, and play a few positions. Newman checks those boxes. The problem, of course, is that Bell feels the need to start him on a semi-regular basis even when he has other options available, and that’s where he becomes problematic.

      • wkuchad

        The question is, who would make a solid bat for a team that afford $4 million bench players.

  4. wkuchad

    I doubt this will happen, but assuming we don’t trade any of our plethora of infielders for a starting pitcher or outfielder, I would love to see the following sooner rather than later:

    • 1B – Encarnacion-Strand
    • 2B – McLain
    • SS – De La Cruz
    • 3B – Senzel
    • C – Stephenson (no more DH or 1B)
    • LF – India
    • CF – Friedl
    • RF – Fraley
    • DH – Steer (also getting several starts at 1B and 3B)

    • Casali or Maile – backing up Stephenson
    • Barrero – backing up De La Cruz and Friedl
    • Newman – backing up McLain (and giving an infielder a day off when a lefty starts)
    • Ramos or Fairchild or Myers – backing up India and Fraley (and starting for Fraley when a lefty starts)

    This would be a decent offensive team now, with lots of potential to grow.

    Starting pitching is another story.

    • Mark Moore

      I’m generally aligned with the transition of India to LF. But I don’t see that happening during the MLB season. I think it will be an offseason discussion and transition with him, perhaps one that includes some type of contract for his arbitration years and maybe beyond that by one or two.

      • wkuchad

        I agree with you about India and the offseason. I don’t think the Reds expected to have three of their infield prospects come on so strong so early in 2023.

      • BK

        I don’t see India in the outfield. He’s slower than Steer and Senzel. I expect the Reds to transition Steer to the OF. They’ve got to be pleased with his progress this season and had him dip his toe in RF at AAA last season. India’s not as bad at 2B as one would expect from the commentary on this site, but 3B, his natural position, would likely be his best position. Senzel must prove he can hit RHP better, or he will be a bench player who gets starts against LHP. He definitely has the defensive versatility to be a super utility player, but “super” implies that he hits well enough to warrant daily playing time.

      • greenmtred

        Is India slower than Steer and Senzel? All three of them look pretty fast. Even if India is slower than the other two, he’s still faster than Jesse Winker.

    • LDS

      Dump Ramos, Myers, Newman, one of the catchers, and trade Senzel. Fraley needs a platoon partner that can hit LH’ers, though I’d give him a chance to do so, I don’t think he will. Steer can hold down 3rd until Marte or CES comes up. Give Hopkins a shot over all the dinosaurs. Still like EDLC in CF vs. SS, but we’ll see. Yes, he says he wants to be the SS, but is that the best move? If Barrero isn’t going to start every day, send him down to Louisville to work on his game. And someone please, talk Votto into retiring.

  5. SR

    I believe when we get a look at CES in the field it will be clear he needs to be dH, not a first baseman. I think Steer is the guy to play the field between the two. Also still not sure I would pencil in Senzel long term at third. He hits lefties well in his rebirth this year,but not right handed pitchers so much. Never hit better than 250 in mlb against right handers except 2020 Covid year. And he continues to trend down this year. He could be Fraley’s platoon partner versus lefties and get his swings in giving infielders a day off at 3b, 2b, and 1b.

  6. wolfcycle

    trade India while he still has value

    • Luke J

      Why would India’s value drop? I see nothing about India that leads me to believe there will be a drop in value/performance. He’s a gamer and his defensive shortcomings are grossly overexaggerated by faulty defensive metrics.

      • Jimbo44CN

        India is the spark and soul of this team. Trade him? OMG. NOOO

      • David

        Uh, yeah. I agree. Trade Jon India? Well, no. He’s a great guy, great personality, hustles like crazy. He has allegedly remarked he wants to try Free Agency when the calendar gets there. But that is still a few years away.
        Left field or 3rd base? I dunno.

        3rd base is his “natural” position (India). Is he a better 3rd baseman (fielding) than Senzel? Senzel was supposed to be an elite fielding 3rd baseman when drafted and playing in the minors, and he seems to be playing well there now.

        I, personally, would love to see EDLC take over CF and own it, become the kind of CF that Eric Davis was. But he does want to play SS. So I think we wait and see how well he does at the ML level. Which is also why I would keep Barrero, if EDLC is overmatched as a fielder at SS.
        Elly De La Cruz seems to be a very smart guy, who has a high baseball IQ, from seeing translated interviews with him (speaks primarily Spanish). It is not just “reflex” or raw talent, that he is so good, so highly regarded. He learns quickly and makes adjustments.

      • 2020ball

        Didnt injuries derail Davis’ career? I’m not sure why you’d develop him as a SS then just move him to CF as a big leaguer. Same as moving Stephenson to 1B, what a waste of developing a guy at a skilled position for years.

        I’d prefer him at SS, he’s a good defender there and we know that. 2B/3B India and McClain, whichever order.

  7. Uncle Vinny

    Heres the issue in bringing up EDLC. The team is still managed by David Bell! The same guy that benches guys like Friedl and Fraley because they’re facing a lefty. All the while running Wil Myers and his red hot .190 avg night after night!! The best analogy I can give is its like Dad going out and getting a new Corvette and tossing the keys to his 16 year old with a learners permit!!!!

  8. RedsGettingBetter

    CES could be a top 100 prospect right now? Or given his low value as defender according to scouts reports and just viewed as a DH he never is going to reach that ranking…

    • 2020ball

      His defense is holding him back, and he’s also K’s a lot. The defense will hurt you on those rankings, even if your bat will for sure play.