Over at ESPN they unveiled their 2024 Major League Baseball predictions. Doing so two weeks into the regular season is certainly a choice, but ESPN asked their panel of baseball writers to offer up some things that they think could happen this season. There were some hot takes in there, and the one that Jeff Passan made about Cincinnati Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz certainly qualifies.

What was the hot take that Passan put out there? He predicts that Elly De La Cruz will hit 30 home runs and steal 80 bases this year. No one has ever done that in a single season before.

There’s a lot to unravel there, but let’s start with the home runs. 30 home runs in today’s game is more rare than it was from the 1995-2005 era, but it’s not at all an uncommon thing. Since 1988 there have been 955 player seasons with 30 or more home runs. Why did I choose 1988? Well, that’s the last time any one had a season with 80 stolen bases. In 1988 both Rickey Henderson (93 steals) and Vince Coleman (81 steals) topped the mark. A few players have come close since then, not none have gotten there. Ronald Acuna Jr. stole 73 bases last season and hit 41 home runs. He’s the only player to steal more than 65 bases and hit more than 14 home runs in that time frame.

When it comes to the tools, Elly De La Cruz certainly has the ones required to hit 30 home runs and steal 80 bases. He’s got some of the best raw power in baseball. He’s also one of, if not the fastest players in baseball. And the rules have been altered recently to encourage players to steal bases more frequently, too.

The Reds shortstop is out to a hot start, even if a week ago there were people on the internet spouting that he should be sent to Triple-A. He’s currently hitting .318/.375/.659 and has three home runs and six stolen bases in 12 games played. It’s incredibly unlikely he keeps up his high average (and thus higher on-base percentage) without making more contact than he has this season to this point. But that’s a different story that isn’t directly related to his home runs or his steals.

It is, though, indirectly related. The more contact he makes, the more home runs he’s likely to hit. And the more contact he makes, the more likely he will find more hits and get on base. And of course, the more often he’s on base the more opportunities he will have to steal bases.

If one of the sportsbooks were offering that as a prop bet, you’d be a fool to take it. But as Kevin Malone famously once said: If someone gives you 10,000-to-1 on anything, you take it.

32 Responses

  1. BenchWarmer

    Our own Eric Davis came probably the closest to a 30/80 season, with 27 HR and 80 RBI (in just 132 games in 1986). He followed that up with 37 HR and 50 SB in ’87 (again missing a chunk of games, playing in 129). He had those seasons without a pitch clock, limited throws over, and bigger bases, and won the first of 3 Gold Gloves in ’87. Just a reminder of what a remarkable talent he was.

    • greenmtred

      Eric the Red. What might have been..

      • RedsMonk65

        I fail to understand the lamentations in regard to Eric Davis. “Oh, what might have been….”

        Typical “woe is us” Reds fans’ mentality. Eric Davis was a GREAT player. We got to see that. He was on our team — the Reds. Yes, injuries forestalled what might have been an even greater career, HOF-caliber career. But still. Gosh, he was great and fun to watch!

        Over his career: 36.1 WAR, 282 HR, .269 AVG., 934 RBI, 349 SB!!! .359 OBP, .482 SLG, .841OPS; 2x All-Star, 2x Silver Slugger winner, 3x Gold Glove winner; 1x World Series champion.

        That is WAY MORE than most MLB players accomplish. And he was ours (excuse us, L.A. Dodgers, Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis, and San Francisco). He was a Cincinnati Red at the height of his game. What a gift–for him and us!

        I hope ELDC accomplishes even more. But even if he “only” performs at the level of Eric Davis, my goodness, what an accomplishment!!!!

      • Mauired

        What might have been not just a HOF career, but recognition today as a talent as good as any in the history of the game. Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Eric Davis, Ken Griffey Jr. Maybe even a couple more World Series Championships for the 90’s Reds too.

      • RedsMonk65

        Sorry, but my point still stands. It just seems that we Reds fans — and I include myself here — more often lament about “what might have been” or “what it used to be like” either regarding someone like Davis or the Reds overall rather than celebrate what we have actually been given as Reds fans, which is quite a darn bit. Not much of anything, I grant you, lamentably 😉 , in the last 30 years, but in the history of the game, quite a bit.

        Davis was a great player. Period. Not could have been a great player if ….

      • RedsMonk65

        Another way to say it: Let’s not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

      • greenmtred

        My comment was more about Davis than it was about the Reds. Of course he had a remarkable career and, as you say yourself, the injuries that shortened it may well have prevented him from rewriting the record books. I hope he doesn’t live with regrets, but it certainly seems possible that he does.

    • Matt McWax

      From June 1986 to May 1987, Davis had 41 HR and 83 SB.

    • Dewey Roberts

      You meant 27 homers and 80 SB— not RBI’s. I agree with you about Eric. That kidney injury in the World Series ruined a HOF career, imo. I told him that when I saw him in Pensacola one time. I still consider him the most talented starting player (non-pitcher) I ever saw in a Reds uniform. He could do everything and he was a leader. I know that is saying a lot but he was just phenomenal. He had no weaknesses.

    • Lance Pace

      Eric Davis was the best player i’ve ever seen. Too bad he had the injury bug. What might have been?

  2. Grand Salami

    He’s on pace at the moment. His BB% would need to increase as his average likely comes down to earth. It’s shocking how realistic it sounds when you consider his ability.

    The Reds need to lock him up for 8-10 years!

  3. MBS

    I think EDLC will be a 30/30 guy this year. If he can lessen his chase rate, he’s a 40/40 guy.

    • Mauired

      30/30? He’s already on pace for 97 steals

      • MBS

        30/30 is a real category, 30/90 isn’t. The typical way clubs are defined are in even measurements like 20/20, 30/30, 40/40. EDLC maybe the 1st person to have 30+ HR’s and 90+ SB’s, but that’s an accomplishment, not a club.

  4. Nick in NKY

    One thing we’ve definitely seen already this year is how his speed affects infielders. One thing I wouldn’t mind betting is that he’ll have more reached-on-errors than anyone else in the league. The BB rate going up would be nice too. As for swiping 80 bags in a year, I’ll bet that also has a lot to do with him continuing to bat in front of Steer, requiring more pitcher attentiveness and also being less likely to invite pitching changes to a LHer. But here’s hoping.

    • Mauired

      Yeah I think it was the same night he had the home run and inside the parker, he scored by getting on by error as well. And the sequence of events impressed me as much as the homers. I believe he got on base on an infield error, then stole a couple bases, then scored on a ground out. Essentially not one ball got out of the infield or for a hit for that matter and he turns it into a run magically.

  5. ClevelandRedsFan

    The strikeout rate is everything with EDLC. Every at bat in which he doesn’t strikeout is a win. With how hard he hits the ball and the speed, he will have a higher BABIP than most guys. The homeruns will come.

    It seems as if 75% of the pitches he sees are breaking balls either down or below the strike zone. The last week or so, he has seemed more patient and not chasing those as much.

    3 straight games without striking out is a big time achievement for him. Strikeout rate is now 35% (was 37% last year). I doubt he will ever be league average (roughly 20%). But if he can finish the year around 25%, he will be a legit MVP candidate.

  6. Brian

    To me, the Acuna 40 HR 70 SB is more impressive than 30 HR and 80 SB. Obviously, both are pronominal. If he avoids long slumps then he’s got a shot, just extremely athletic.

  7. Matt McWax

    He was replacement level before Monday’s game, up to .5 fWAR after the next three games. I think he has looked better. I think he will be a good hitter from the right side, there have been some glimpses of it.

  8. Old-school

    Hes also leading the team in Runs scored by a wide margin . Add 100 runs to 30/80

    That is the Path for the Reds to make the playoffs- elly blows up into a superstar and one of the SP becomes elite

  9. Grand Salami

    What should a long term offer look like. Seems like the Jackson C. deal in Milwaukee is a good starting point.

  10. Lid

    I hope Elly can do a 40/100 season, but 30/80 is well within reach and 40/80 would beat out Acuna 🙂

    I’m sure everyone here knows that Eric the Red basically had a 50/100 162 game stretch between 1986-1987(?)

    • Mauired

      That Eric Davis stat is insane. And I don’t think it’s far fetched that Elly could do 50/100 one of these years with his power and speed. Maybe better.

      I wonder if he hits more home runs in his career as a lefty only or a switch hitter?

      • Lid

        I looked it up again since it’s soooo ridiculous:

        Slash line – .308/.406/.622 with 47 homers, 149 runs, 123 RBIs and 98 SBs

    • JT

      I had the fortunate privilege to see Eric the red hit for the cycle and make two defensive gems against San Diego in June of 86 or 87. I’ll never forget how of a centerfielder he was also

  11. Melvin

    I think it’s very feasible he could be the first to do that.

  12. David

    Contra Eric Davis, EDLC seems to NOT be injury prone. If he stays healthy and avoids some kind of season ending or career ending injury , he will have a pretty amazing career. Most likely with the Dodgers or Yankees after the next 5 years, though.

    And the guy is an amazing athlete, an amazing baseball player.

    Oneil Cruz, a little bit taller than EDLC, is playing shortstop for the Pirates, who…are in first place in the NL Central.

    But the Reds problem is pitching, not the lineup, not a lot of things. Their starting pitching is at best, erratic. And it is hard to say how good their bullpen is yet.

  13. Bob

    Check Elly’s game stats, his last 4 games, zero Ks, every game before, at least 1 K. Something changed big time 4 games ago. He’s apparently seeing the ball much better and his confidence is on the rise. Potential changing to actual will be fun to watch. Does Elly have brothers, cousins, etc?

  14. DW

    “The Reds shortstop is out to a hot start, even if a week ago there were people on the internet spouting that he should be sent to Triple-A.”

    I love this little shot that you took, Doug. Many on this forum were guilty of that one. It is amazing how little patience there is, especially for the young players. Baseball is a game of ups and downs, slumps and tears…just sucks if the timing isn’t right…like the beginning of a season. And Elly wasn’t even slumping. Just had a high strikeout rate for about a week and a half and made some bad errors. Stretches like that happen to the best of players through a season or career. And he was still had some positive production during that time.

    • J

      I totally agree ? Imagine if Football was like today with QBs when Peyton Manning had a horrible rookie season ! Had that been in 2022 , they be drafting another QB and Peyton might have become Josh Rosen !! Can we give a 22 year old ballplayer a little time to adjust to Major League pitching ? He hasn’t even seen a lot of Triple A pitching muchless MLB level !! Even with Elly’s problem areas , while learning some stuff he’s still an above avg player and can still be a weapon on his bad days !!