The stories about things that Elly De La Cruz has done on the baseball field sound made up. They aren’t. And on Saturday night in Louisville he added another tall tale to his legend.
The Cincinnati Reds top prospect walked in the 1st inning. That brought Christian Encarnacion-Strand to the plate and he lined a single into center and De La Cruz went 1st-to-3rd on a ball that no one has any right to do such a thing on, but we aren’t talking about a normal human being here. As De La Cruz slid into third just ahead of the tag, Encarnacion-Strand broke for second and he would easily beat the throw to second from the third baseman. The fielder faked a throw back to third base in an attempt to hold De La Cruz at the bag. It worked….. until he then turned his back to the infield and De La Cruz sprinted for the plate and slid in head first just ahead of the throw to score on the play.
The fact that the same guy who can do that on the bases also can hit 500-foot home runs and throw 100+ MPH across the infield is just insane. It doesn’t make sense. Elly De La Cruz is a guy who you have seen other players who can do one of the things he can do, except he can do all of them. He’s got Billy Hamilton’s speed, Shawon Dunston’s arm, and the raw power from both sides of the plate of anyone you can think of.
When Fangraphs dropped the line “But if De La Cruz ‘booms,’ it could be a boom on par with the one that created the universe” it somehow has turned out to feel accurate. While the top prospect in the game has gone out and done nothing but rake since he arrived in the United States in the summer of 2021, what he’s done in 2023 is something different.
Elly De La Cruz began the season on the injured list. When his season began in Triple-A Louisville he went 1-21 with 11 strikeouts to begin the season. And then just like that snap of his fingers, everything changed. He’s had 158 plate appearances since that 1-21 start and he’s hit .338/.447/.722 since then. Almost overnight he began to walk at an elite rate at the highest level of minor league baseball. And he’s done that as one of the youngest players in the league. At just 21-years-old he’s only played in nine games in the last three seasons where the pitcher he faced was younger than he was (and none this season).