The Cincinnati Reds have called up Major League Baseball’s top prospect Elly De La Cruz from Triple-A Louisville. He will be replacing Nick Senzel on the roster after he was placed on the injured list with a right knee injury.
The top prospect in all of baseball has been on an absolute tear over the last six weeks in Triple-A, making a mockery of much of the league’s pitching in the process.
After starting the season 1-21 with 11 strikeouts, the 21-year-old Elly De La Cruz has gone out and hit .336/.442/.715 for the Louisville Bats in 165 plate appearances. That’s come with 10 doubles, 3 triples, 12 home runs, and 10 stolen bases.
During his short time in Triple-A this season he’s gone from a player who had a so-so walk rate and a higher-than-you-would-like-to-see strikeout rate in the past to a 21-year-old who seemed to have a light switch go off when it comes to recognizing pitches better and being more selective in what he’s been swinging at. Despite being among the youngest players in all of Triple-A, De La Cruz has walked at Joey Votto levels over the last month and he’s cut his strikeout rate down in a big way after those first few games coming off of the injured list when he had 11 strikeouts in his first 21 plate appearances. Since May 9th he has 24 walks and 26 strikeouts in 114 plate appearances.
The things you hear about Elly De La Cruz almost aren’t believable. From his speed, which is among the best in all of baseball, to the 500-foot home runs, to the fact that in one game he had more batted balls of 116 MPH than any team has ever had in a game, to having the strongest infield arm in baseball – they are tall tales that if we told them even 10 years ago before all of these metrics were being tracked and logged, wouldn’t be believed and would be exaggerations. But instead we can actually look at them and say “holy moley, this is all true.”
Exactly where he will fit into the defensive alignment is a bit of a question. During his minor league career he’s spent most of his time at shortstop, but he has also seen some action at third base. Shortstop is the best position for him, though he’s a fine third baseman, too. When he joined Matt McLain in Double-A in the second half last year, and then again in Triple-A this season – they split the shortstop duties a bit, with McLain sliding to second base when De La Cruz was at short, and De La Cruz sliding to third when McLain was at short. With Jonathan India at second, that kind of splitting of duties seems unlikely at the onset.
Eventually something will have to give, though, because Joey Votto is going to come back and get time at first, and if it’s not him it’s going to be Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and that’s going to push Spencer Steer off of first where he’s currently playing, and create another log jam of players trying to get at-bats and playing time on the infield where there doesn’t quite seem to be enough room for everyone on a daily basis.
The Reds will figure it out, even if it’s going to lead to an uncomfortable conversation or two along the way with some players. For now we know that Cincinnati is adding the top prospect in baseball to their lineup, and one of the players with the best raw power in all of the sport to a lineup that has less home run power than just about any team in the league. Grab your popcorn, hot dogs, pretzels, and cracker jacks, and enjoy the show.