July 2, 2018: Cincinnati Reds signed free agent IF Elly De La Cruz to a minor league contract, for only $65,000, via scout Richard Jimenez.
Elly has the intensity and energy level that scouts love. And he has solid character.
De la Cruz had never played a game in the United States until June 28, 2021.
“He’s been one of the more interesting guys we’ve ever had come from our Dominican Republic program because he has the entire tool set. He’s got really good work ethic and really good baseball IQ,” Reds vice president of player development Shawn Pender said.
“We certainly feel he’s a five-tool player,” Pender said. “He’s long, lean and athletic and has good natural instincts. He’s got above-average bat speed and has shown plus raw power.” (Doug Gray - BA - Sept., 2021)
2021 Season: There probably isn’t another player in minor league baseball who made such a big leap in terms of prospect value this season than Elly De La Cruz.
He went from relatively unknown to Top 100 prospect after hitting .296/.336/.538 between his time with the Arizona Complex League Reds (11 games) and the Low-A Daytona Tortugas (50 games). In 61 games he had 18 doubles, 9 triples, and 8 home runs. He saw action at both third base and shortstop during the season, playing 28 and 20 games at each spot. (Doug Gray - October 11, 2021)
In 2022, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Elly as the 4th-best prospect in the Reds' organization. He moved up to the #1 prospect in 2023.
Dec 15, 2021: At only 19 and playing in the United States for the first time during the 2021 season, De La Cruz made a big impression.
“He’s a big tool guy with a big motor and high intelligent character,” Reds vice president of player development Shawn Pender said. “He’s very projectable physically but he’s still growing. He’s still filling out. Great bat speed. Like [shortstop prospect Matt] McLain, he’s got a great motor. He loves to play, he’s a good teammate. He’s smart as hell with exciting, difference-making tools.”
In 2018, Cincinnati’s international scouting department signed De La Cruz out of the Dominican Republic for $65,000, but they didn’t fully grasp his potential at the time. He spent his first pro season, 2019, in the Dominican Summer League.
Now De La Cruz is viewed as a likely five-tool talent.
A switch-hitter who is ranked No. 8 in the organization by MLB Pipeline, De La Cruz had a superlative two-plus-week stretch in the Arizona Complex League while batting .400 with a 1.235 OPS and three home runs in 11 games.
After moving up to Low-A Daytona, De La Cruz held his own well as he batted .269/.305/.477 with five homers, 12 doubles, seven triples and 29 RBIs in 50 games. He walked 10 times but struck 65 in 210 plate appearances.
At one time, he was listed at 6-foot-2 and 150 pounds.
“I think he’s a five-tool guy,” Pender said. “We all know some of those recede a little bit as you age. But he can really run, can really throw, can hit, can hit for power and his defense. Because he’s so athletic — he’s got a chance to have five above-average tools.” Pender’s evaluation is echoed by those in other organizations.
"He has above-average bat speed and the ball jumps off his bat,” one Major League scouting executive said. “There's projection on his body. He has good actions defensively with solid hands and plenty of arm."
De La Cruz is a natural shortstop and played 23 games at that position last season but also demonstrated he can move around. He played more games, 35, at third base.
Besides De La Cruz and McLain (No. 3 prospect), the Reds also have shortstop prospects in Ivan Johnson (No. 16) and José Torres (No. 22). De La Cruz and Torres could begin 2022 in High-A Dayton. The Reds aren’t worried about having too many potential shortstops.
“What’s most interesting about these guys, all of them have a chance to be offensive,” Pender said. “When you’re offensive, you can certainly move to other positions and play third or play second or go to the outfield. Almost all of those guys have tool sets that would fit.
“You figure it out or someone has interest in them and you make a trade because you have multiple premier position guys. That’s a good problem to have.” (M Sheldon - MLB.com - Dec 15, 2021)
2021 Season at a glance: .296/.336/.538 (.874 OPS) in 265 PA split between AZL Reds (Rookie League) and Daytona Tortugas (Low-A Southeast League)
Pros: Legit five-tool upside, elite power/speed combo with chance to stick at SS, switch-hitter, plus fielder
Cons: Swing and miss concerns (31.0% K-rate at Daytona), low walk rate (4.8% at Daytona)
There were few prospects at any level in any system that had a rise up future depth charts the way that De La Cruz did last year. After a promising (yet mostly punchless) debut in 2019 as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League, his entire 2020 campaign was lost as the pandemic shut down all minor league games. When he made his debut in 2021 at the Reds Goodyear complex, though, he quickly began to turn heads with his tremendous physical skills.
He’s got an incredibly long way to go to fine-tune those skills, of course, but remains one of the best young, raw talents to come through the system in years. The Reds decision to promote him to Daytona early on in 2021 suggest they’re willing to move him quickly, though, and I fully expect him to electrify the crowds in Dayton to begin 2022 in a fashion that could even see him reach Chattanooga by year’s end, too. (Mitchell Clark - Jan 13, 2022)
Feb 18, 2022: As Reds shortstop prospect Elly De La Cruz grew up in the Dominican Republic, he initially didn’t generate the type of buzz that had scouts flocking to find him first. But De La Cruz found he was in the right place at the right time to get noticed.
“I was at the program where I practiced in the Dominican, and a scout from the Reds came out to see the other shortstop that was there. They saw me because I was playing, too,” De La Cruz explained through translator Becky Schnakenberg. “The next day, they came back and said, ‘We want to sign you.’”
De La Cruz, who grew up in Monte Plata, north of the capital city of Santo Domingo, was signed as a 16-year-old on July 2, 2018, by scout Richard Jimenez for $65,000 — far below the large sums often given to shortstop prospects in his country.
At age 20, De La Cruz is definitely generating some buzz. He is ranked by MLB Pipeline as Cincinnati’s No. 8 prospect with five tools.
“He’s got six, because he switch-hits,” Reds former outfielder Eric Davis said. “He’s different. It’s a rarity when you see guys like that. Sometimes, you talk about six tools in a wishful comment. But his is legit. You just hope that injuries and those things don’t stop him, because his mindset and ability to want to compete is past a lot of kids his age.”
Davis, who is the Reds' special assistant to the general manager for player performance, is one of the instructors who has worked with De La Cruz in recent years. Conservatively listed at 6-foot-2 and 150 pounds, De La Cruz appears to have filled out while his hitting and fielding skills have improved with his growth.
“He’s electric,” Davis said. “His ability, his attitude, his willingness to learn, his willingness to compete. He has a very good idea of what he wants to accomplish as a player. That’s just something you don’t see much from a young kid.”
After he was signed, De La Cruz played in the Tricky League — an informal league for teenagers before they are eligible for the Dominican Summer League. That’s when he realized that strength training would really be important for his career.
“I could barely hit the ball past the infield. I only had one home run,” he said.
As baseball was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, De La Cruz worked out at home and focused on getting stronger. The 2021 season marked his first year of playing in the United States, and he knew that his hard work paid off.
“When I got here in extended spring, I realized I was the best,” De La Cruz said.
2021 Season: During a two-plus-week stretch in the Arizona Complex League, De La Cruz batted .400 with a 1.235 OPS and three home runs in 11 games. After moving up to Low-A Daytona, he batted .269/.305/.477 with five homers, 12 doubles, seven triples and 29 RBIs in 50 games. He walked 10 times but had 65 strikeouts in 210 plate appearances.
De La Cruz was included among prospects invited to the Reds’ annual early camp for Minor Leaguers. He realizes it’s another chance to impress as he strives to move up.
“This camp is really helping me evolve,” De La Cruz said. “Mostly, I’ve learned how important all the exercises I am doing in the gym and strength and conditioning is for me and how that will help me avoid injuries.”
It remains to be seen if De La Cruz will open the 2022 season at Daytona or if he will move up to High-A Dayton, because the Reds have several shortstop prospects in their system. While he now has the size that would allow him to move to a position like third base, but that’s not his preference.
“No, shortstop,” De La Cruz said in English.
Like Reds shortstop prospect Jose Barrero, who debuted in the Major Leagues in 2020 and will compete for a spot in '22, De La Cruz could advance quickly and put on a show that has people talking.
“He’s a fast-track guy,” Davis said. “The only thing about that is you have to be willing to allow him to do that. In development, you want to be cautious because you don’t want a kid to get overwhelmed. But you have to also understand, ‘What is your label of being overwhelmed?’ Is it the results or the ability of not being able to compete that overwhelms? For me, his ability to compete at any level will not overwhelm him. When you have guys who are that quick, you have to allow them to do what they do. “Every level he goes to, he is going to compete. They will know who he is at every level he goes to.” (M Sheldon - MLB.com - Feb 18, 2022)
De La Cruz is a loose-limbed 6-foot-5, a switch-hitter with incredible speed and a real shot to stick at shortstop. Every day, he does something that drops jaws, and he figures to be in the mix for the crown of top prospect in baseball by the start of next season.
De La Cruz was an impressive player, at least over the three games I saw. My first game there, he wound up just a double shy of the cycle and made an impressive throw at short from a difficult angle, almost getting an out when most shortstops wouldn’t have had a chance. One scout timed him getting down the line to first base on a hit in just less than four seconds.
The type of talent he has defies explanation. Dayton hitting coach Daryle Ward, who doesn’t come across as one prone to exaggeration, compared De La Cruz to a few high-profile greats he faced in his own High-A days. “How I used to look at Andruw Jones and Vladimir Guerrero is how I look at Elly at the same age,” Ward said. De La Cruz simply looks too good for the league despite being one of the youngest players in it, and he might not be in the league much longer if he keeps things up. (Buchanan-TheAthletic.com-June 13, 2022)
That’s how many games 20-year-old Reds prospect Elly De La Cruz has played in 2022 — 73 in High-A and 26 in Double-A. In those 99 often jaw-dropping, dynamic, intoxicating games, De La Cruz has captured the attention of not just Cincinnati fans everywhere, but prospect hounds, card collectors, and admirers of exciting baseball players around the country.
“Elly’s phenomenal,” says Eric Davis, former MLB player and Reds instructor told The Sporting News, standing on the field at Dodger Stadium before the annual Futures Game. “And he’s even a better student of the game than he is a player, so that’s the exciting part. Our organization’s thrilled to have him.” (Fagan-TheSportingNews-August 23, 2022)
2022 Season: If we’re only counting the stats that took place inside the Reds organization then De La Cruz won the Triple Crown in the farm system. He hit .304/.359/.586 with 28 home runs and 86 RBI. The 20-year-old also stole 47 bases in what has been one of the most impressive offensive seasons in the Cincinnati farm system in a long time.
2022 Reds Prospect Stats Leader - Elly De La Cruz, SS/3B (No. 1/MLB No. 14):
28 HR/47 SB
In 2021, De La Cruz jumped on the prospect map during his United States debut. In 2022, he became one of the most exciting prospects in all of baseball and a strong contender for Hitting Prospect of the Year. The switch-hitter can do it all, as evidenced by him coming close to a 30-50 season. In terms of the homer-steal combination (while hitting a combined .304), his year was as impressive as anyone in the Minors, with a dozen more steals than anyone who hit more than 25 homers. (Callis, Dykstra & Mayo - MLB.com - Oct 13, 2022)
Dec 15, 2022: When asked at this year's Redsfest to describe his style of playing, top Reds prospect Elly De La Cruz didn’t struggle for a reply.
“Electric,” De La Cruz said via translator Jorge Merlos.
Coming off Cincinnati’s 62-100 season in 2022, Reds fans would love nothing more than to see De La Cruz’s brand of electricity in the 2023 Opening Day lineup. However, the soon-to-be-21-year-old has only logged 47 games and 207 plate appearances above the Class A level in the Minor Leagues as he prepares for his first big league Spring Training.
That likely makes the odds for him to make the team out of camp slim, but that isn’t going to deter the 6-foot-5 shortstop, who is ranked No. 1 in the organization and No. 14 overall by MLB Pipeline.
“It's a great opportunity,” De La Cruz said. “You have to take full advantage of everything, so you've just got to put all your worth into it and all your everything you've done these past couple of months and years of training to hopefully at least stay up there as long as possible. That's what I'm going to try to do this Spring Training, take this opportunity.”
In 2022, De La Cruz batted .304 with a .945 OPS, 28 homers and 47 stolen bases over 120 games for High-A Dayton and Double-A Chattanooga; but he also struck out 158 times against 40 walks.
The impressive overall numbers complement the superlatives De La Cruz has drawn from talent evaluators, who praise his intellect and instincts on the field and his overall enthusiasm about playing.
“The reports are about as good as they can be,” Reds manager David Bell said. “From the regular season, winter ball, whatever, there's a lot of excitement around Elly. Besides the talent and what kind of baseball player he is, he has such a confident way about him, and he has a presence because he just really believes in himself. He's really positive. The way he plays is very contagious, too, so it makes people around him better. That's just kind of a gift.”
“I think I've always had it in me. I've always had a love for this game, and it's what keeps me going every day,” De La Cruz said. “I try to forget as much as possible what I've done the day before. It might have been a bad day, it might have been a good day, but I know that I'm going to get to play today.”
At winter ball in the Dominican Republic, De La Cruz batted .286 with an .813 OPS in 24 games for Licey. It was in that nation, in the town of Monte Plata, where he was signed as an unheralded player by the Reds for only $65,000 in 2018. He remained an unranked prospect until after he debuted on American soil in 2021.
“It's very emotional to play down there. You get to really see what it's like to play and control your emotions as well,” De La Cruz said of winter ball. “It's really cool to have my family and other people that know me see me play out there.”
De La Cruz would prefer to play shortstop, but he realizes the club has lots of depth at that position with fellow prospects Noelvi Marte and Matt McLain and incumbent Jose Barrero, among others, in the organization. In winter ball, he played third base and second base when he wasn’t at shortstop.
"I like third better. I don't like second,” De La Cruz said in English.
March 23, 2023: Amid the myriad pieces of shiny jewelry worn on the field by the Reds' top prospect, Elly De La Cruz, is a medallion that features a photo of his family.
"It’s because I do it for them. I do it for my people," De La Cruz said via translator Jorge Merlos. At the center of that universe off the field is De La Cruz's mother, Carmen.
"Really, besides baseball, it’s totally going to be my family and my mother," said De La Cruz, who resides in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. "They really inspired me to become the person I am today."
Ranked the No. 10 prospect overall by MLB Pipeline, the 21-year-old De La Cruz was among Spring Training cuts when he was optioned to Triple-A Louisville on March 14. Although there were flashes of excitement in his play that shows why he's an exciting prospect, he also demonstrated there is still some seasoning needed.
In 12 games, De La Cruz was 5-for-25 (.200) with one home run, two triples and five RBIs. He also struck out nine times with two walks. A five-tool talent, De La Cruz batted .304 with a .945 OPS, 28 home runs and 47 stolen bases in 120 games at High-A Dayton and Double-A Chattanooga last season. Jose Barrero and Kevin Newman are slated to be the big league shortstops this season, but De La Cruz will be waiting in the wings for his chance as he continues developing.
De La Cruz did a Q&A with MLB.com. Here is a sample of the discussion:
What was he told to work on when being sent down? "Not much, besides 'you have to keep up your work consistently, that’s how you’re going to get up here,'" De La Cruz said.
On his joy for playing baseball: "Ever since I was little, I’ve always just loved playing the game," he said. "Back in the streets, we would play with little tennis balls and other different kinds of balls. It’s kind of makeshift like it’s baseball. Ever since I picked up a ball, I really liked it. Basketball was also a really big passion for me, it came before baseball. But baseball is really my sport.
"When I cross the lines out there and get into position, I feel like I am at home."
Would De La Cruz keep wearing No. 44 if and when he is called up to the big leagues?
Although several players have worn No. 44 over the years, it's most closely associated with former Reds outfield great Eric Davis. Reds clubhouse manager Rick Stowe seemed to have that in mind when he assigned the number to De La Cruz, who has worked with Davis in the Minor Leagues and Spring Training.
“I have so much admiration," De La Cruz said of Davis. "Just to be in his presence is amazing. He’s given me so much advice, especially out here when I’m stealing bases. He’s given me all these tips; and now I just don’t get caught stealing anymore.” (M Sheldon - MLB.com - March 23, 2023)
Since April 24, the Reds have gone 22-18 and are the only team in the NL Central with a winning record in that span. Whatever potential there was leading up to this series, the arrival of De La Cruz, regarded by some as the top prospect in the game, blew the top off those expectations.
While some outside worried about De La Cruz disrupting what was a pretty good thing the Reds had going, everyone who had been around De La Cruz — players, coaches, scouts, executives — knew he would amplify that energy rather than diffuse it. “This whole team has some type of vibe, and a really positive vibe, too,” said Elly De La Cruz, according to team interpreter Jorge Merlos. “It’s kind of like vibes of going to the World Series.”
Since last year, it has seemed like De La Cruz delivers Twitter highlights nightly, to the extent that he had people questioning the new-fangled statistics pumped out by baseball’s ever-improving technology.
That new technology? Wednesday, it said De La Cruz hit Syndergaard’s 91.9-mph four-seam fastball 114.8 mph off the bat at a launch angle of 35 degrees for a home run of 458 feet.
For those who want more a more traditional description, De La Cruz’s bomb to right field bounced off the hands of 17-year-old Alex French, a linebacker at Moeller High School, the alma mater of Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Larkin and Reds manager David Bell. French and a group of his teammates were taking in the game in section 142, row Z, the very last row of seats in right at Great American Ball Park. It is a prodigious distance from home plate.
In the dugout, Reds players couldn’t play it cool and give him the silent treatment or anything like that. They were in awe.
“I had probably the same reaction as everyone in the stadium and watching on TV. My jaw dropped,” said Reds outfielder TJ Friedl. “I don’t know how to react to that. He has been hitting balls in BP and we’ve seen his power in BP, but it’s just different in the game. One of the more impressive parts was that that ball was dotted up and in and he cleared that pretty easy — back-spun and kept it true. He’s extremely talented, everyone knows it. But to see it kind of unfold in front of you …”
After the game, starter Ben Lively said that De La Cruz noted that he didn’t get all of it — and for anyone else, you’d know they were joking. With De La Cruz, everyone knew he wasn’t.
The 114.8 mph exit velocity was the hardest-hit ball by a Red this season, topping the previous best of 112 mph, set the night before by De La Cruz as he recorded his first career hit.
“We’re two games in and this is my first time I’ve seen him in person, I’ve seen all the highlights on social media, it is truly remarkable,” catcher Tyler Stephenson said. “I’m all for it. I’m bought in. I’m pretty disappointed that ball didn’t leave the stadium, so we’ve got some work to do. I happened to go back outside right as BP ended and his last swing hit the smokestacks (in right-center field). I haven’t seen anyone else do that. So yeah, it’s pretty special.”
“I think he’s even more exciting than advertised,” said Steer. (Rosecrans - June 7, 2023 - The Athletic)
I’ve been watching the video of Elly De La Cruz, doing his thing and Usain Bolt-ing it into third base, for nearly a week now. And I think I’ve finally decided what this was:
The most thrilling cycle of all time.
OK, I’ll admit I may be underestimating the magic of Mox McQuery’s cycle for the 1885 Detroit Wolverines. But how electrifying could that one have been, considering there was no such thing as ballpark electricity yet?
But of the cycles in the modern world, cycles for which we have actual data to evaluate them, I’ll say this again: Elly De La Cruz’s cycle for the Reds last Friday was the most thrilling ever.
How can I possibly make that argument? Oh, just watch me.
He hit a ball 116.6 miles per hour! In the second inning, with his team already down 5-0, the Reds’ magnetic rookie hit this bolt to right field. Better pay attention, because it streaks across your screen fast. So he squashed that baseball at nearly 117 mph for his first hit of this cycle — and that wasn’t even the home run! Now why do I bring this up? Oh, only because in the Statcast era (2015-23), that was the hardest-hit ball launched by anyone in any cycle — all 37 of them — over the last nine seasons.
With the help of Statcast and MLB Network researcher Elijah Ackerman, I can present the leaderboard:
116.6 — Elly De La Cruz, June 2023
110.9 — Christian Yelich, Sept. 17, 2018
110.6 — Shohei Ohtani, June 13, 2019
He went from home to third in under 11 seconds! I don’t know about you, but it might take me a minute and a half to sprint from home plate to third base these days, even if I got in “I-might-hit-a-triple” shape. But it took De La Cruz only 10.83 seconds to do this.
According to Statcast, De La Cruz went from home to third in a ridiculous 10.83 seconds on that triple. That tied him for the fastest home-to-third dash on a triple by anybody in baseball this year — with himself (on June 7). But that’s not even the historic part.
I looked at every triple in the Statcast era in which a runner went from home to third base that swiftly. There were 35 of them by everyone else, believe it or not. You know what I learned:
Nobody in that period made it to third that fast on any triple in a cycle. So think about this …
Since they’ve been measuring this stuff, De La Cruz hit a ball harder and also ran to third faster than anyone had in any cycle they’ve quantified … and he did both on the same night? Repeat after me: Wow.
The Reds started the evening with an 11-game winning streak. They ended it with a 12-game winning streak. And no cycle has ever erupted in the middle of something like that.
I asked my friends at STATS Perform how many other cycles had ever broken out in a game in which a team won its 12th game in a row (or more). Maybe you can guess the answer … since it’s zero.
They came roaring from five runs behind, against the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut known as the Braves. And then De La Cruz’s fourth hit — that triple — drove in their 11th run of the night … in a game in which they gave up 10.
So it wasn’t just a magical hit. It was a momentous hit. It was only the second cycle ever in an 11-10 game. (The other was by Boston’s Lou Clinton, on July 13, 1962.)
But De La Cruz did more than merely the single/double/triple/homer thing in this game. He also drove in four runs and stole a base. According to STATS, he’s the first player ever to do all of that during a cycle since RBIs became an official stat in 1920. (Stark - Jun 29, 2023 - The Athletic)
July 2023: Elly represented the Reds at the MLB All-Star Game. He was also invited to participate in the Home Run Derby but declined.
- Elly De La Cruz stole every base to score and give the Cincinnati Reds a 7-5 lead in the top of the seventh inning against the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday. De La Cruz stole second base, third base and home plate, becoming the first Reds player to steal all three in the same inning since Greasy Neale in 1919.In 29 games played this season, De La Cruz has 40 hits, four home runs and 16 stolen bases. (Rosecrans - Jul 8, 2023 - The Athletic)
Elly De La Cruz had just slid head-first into third base for a triple to complete the Reds’ first cycle since 1989, and he wasn’t done. With Joey Votto at the plate and two outs, the rookie infielder tried to steal home.
He was thrown out.
For the 43,086 fans attending the Reds’ June 23 game against the Braves that night, it wasn’t particularly surprising that he tried to steal home. That’s what they were there to see. That’s what De La Cruz does: the unexpected, the impossible. It was more shocking that it didn’t work.
De La Cruz is unlike anyone ever seen on a baseball field. The 6-foot-5 switch-hitter has just three categories listed on MLB.com’s StatCast page for his percentile rankings: 98th percentile for maximum exit velocity, 98th percentile for arm strength, and 100th percentile for sprint speed. That means he hits the ball just about as hard as anyone in the game, throws the ball nearly as hard as anyone in the game and is faster than anyone else in the game.
The Reds have gone 22-8 since De La Cruz was called up June 6. He’s been the turbo button for a Reds team that has come out of nowhere to do unexpected, exciting, break-neck things nearly every night.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts raved about De La Cruz, comparing his speed to former Red Deion Sanders, while praising his power and arm. More than that, Roberts was impressed with his demeanor.
“The pure joy to play this game, not be fazed by his debut, those guys are unicorns,” Roberts told reporters.
De La Cruz’s talent has left plenty speechless.
Even the erudite Votto, perhaps the most interesting man in baseball and one of the great students of the game, has struggled to come up with words to describe the rookie. So far this season, he’s compared De La Cruz to Mickey Mantle and Vince Carter.
“Every single day, I tuned in, we tuned in, the city tuned in, he did something special. And that is exactly who he reminds me of,” Votto told reporters recently. “He reminds me of Vinsanity, Air Canada Carter. We’re going to have to come up with some sweet nicknames for him because the dude is worthy of anything you give him.”
The Reds signed De La Cruz for $65,000 in 2018. He was the last player in the team’s international signing class, an unknown who stood six feet tall and weighed just 135 pounds.
De La Cruz, the youngest Red, was just five months old when the Reds took Votto, the oldest, in the second round of the 2002 draft. Now 39, Votto is in the final guaranteed year of a contract extension signed before the 2012 season opener. He has been the face of the franchise for more than a decade.
Third base coach JR House reached out to slap De La Cruz’s hand, as he does after every steal of third, but De La Cruz wanted none of it. Instead, he took off his helmet, shook his hair and watched as catcher William Contreras threw the ball back to pitcher Elvis Peguero. As Peguero turned his back to his catcher, facing center field, De La Cruz started inching toward the plate. As soon as Peguero raised his arms to adjust his jersey, De La Cruz took off for home.
All the Brewers started yelling, but by the time Peguero got a throw off to the plate, De La Cruz was sliding across the plate.
Barely two weeks had passed since De La Cruz’s failed attempt at stealing home. And for the first time, De La Cruz actually seemed to have impressed himself. He literally skipped — in spikes — through the dugout, as teammates gathered to congratulate him and beam in wonder at what they’d just seen. Votto stood at the top of the dugout and led on the group of Reds fans behind the dugout in “Elly! Elly!” chants that could be heard clearly throughout the park and on TV.
“How could I not?” Votto said after the game. “I was a fan in that moment.”
Votto’s not alone. The crowds have grown at Great American Ball Park, as has the spotlight. De La Cruz was featured in a national ad for the new “Mission: Impossible” movie alongside the Ravens’ Odell Beckham Jr. and USWNT star Alex Morgan.
Less than a week after his debut, the Reds played the Royals in Kansas City, where the Super Bowl champion Chiefs were honored before the game and tight end Travis Kelce threw out the first pitch. Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes was also there. Before the Reds left town, Mahomes, perhaps the country’s most popular player in its most popular sport, asked for an autographed bat from De La Cruz, the most exciting player on baseball’s most unexpectedly exciting team.
The bat bore the hand-written inscription from De La Cruz: “The fastest man in the world,” an honor he’d bestowed upon himself during his first week in the big leagues.
“The culture in the clubhouse, I’ve been witness to it,” said Votto after his first game back. “And things are changing for the best. It’s a new generation. It’s a new era in baseball.” (Rosecrans - Jul 13, 2023 - The Athletic)
Aug. 13, 2023: Elly De La Cruz reached 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases in the first 58 games of his career. The only player to debut since 1900 and get there faster was Barry Bonds (57 games).
- Aug. 22, 2023: Elly De La Cruz has 20 steals and 10 homers in 64 games — fastest to reach that mark in MLB history. (@FoulTerritoryTV)
- Elly De La Cruz chose a custom mitt from Absolutely Ridiculous gear featuring a pink-and-blue ice cream design, named 'miami ice ice cream'. The electric De La Cruz wore the sliding mitt on both offense and defense, tucking it into his back pocket while playing the infield, and X, founder of the company, said that exposure has led to drops selling out faster than ever. (Nesbitt - Oct 30, 2023 - The Athletic)
|Sabana de Boya, D.R.
|2018 - Reds - Free agent - Out of the D.R.
De La Cruz is a switch-hitter with impressive 65 grade raw power and he has knack for making consistent, loud contact, for a 50 grade hit tool. In fact, Elly is a 5-tool player.
There are few prospects more dynamic than De La Cruz, both in terms of his five-tool potential and the joy and passion he brings to his game. The switch-hitter’s plus bat speed has been amplified as he’s added strength, and he has legitimate plus power, especially from the left side of the plate. He can still be over-aggressive at times, striking out in more than 30 percent of his plate appearances in 2022, but he showed improved patience while more than holding his own in the Dominican Winter League against much older competition. (BA - Spring 2023)
Elly's biggest concern is his extremely aggressive at-bats. He approaches every at-bat as if he can hit everything. More advanced pitchers will force him to adjust. His approach will have to improve, but he has a shot to hit in the middle of the lineup.
His strike-out rate has to improve, or he will struggle in the majors. It is hard to find prospects who strike out 30% or more in a minor league season. De La Cruz is the only hitter with a strikeout rate of 30%strikeout rate to qualify for a batting title and hit over .300 in 2022. If he could cut it to 26-27% that would make him a star. (J.J. Cooper - Baseball America Prospect Handbook - Spring, 2023)
De La Cruz has the chance to be a true five-tool player. He showed off bat speed and athleticism in the DSL, but added strength was the huge contributor to his explosion on the scene in the U.S. He can swing it from both sides of the plate, looking a little more comfortable from the left side. He can be very quick to the ball, but he’ll have to continue to refine his approach as he advances as he can get over-aggressive. He started to show he can tap into his considerable raw power in 2021, with some believing he might eventually be a plus hitter with plus power. (Spring 2022)
There are few players in the majors or minors with three 70s on their scouting report. De la Cruz is a plus-plus runner with a plus-plus arm and plus-plus raw power, for three 70's!
The biggest concern with De la Cruz is his extremely aggressive at-bats. He approaches every at-bat as if he can hit everything. More advanced pitchers will force him to adjust.
And in the spring of 2022, one MLB scout said, "De la Cruz is a five-tool kid and a switch-hitter. He has pitch recognition and some ability to manage the zone for the most part from both sides."
The Reds player development staff think they have a potential five-tool player on their hands in De La Cruz. He has a good swing from both sides of the plate, a little looser and easier from the left side. He’s compact and short to the ball, showing a solid approach and a willingness to go with the pitch, with raw power to tap into as he adds strength to his 6-foot-2 frame. He’s an above-average runner who is still figuring out his body. (Spring 2021)
He does need to polish his command of the strike zone, but in 2021, managers noticed confidence, a high baseball IQ and smoothness to his game that belied his age and inexperience.
Elly is an aggressive hitter. But he is able to manage his long levers at the plate and make adjustments during at-bats, but he expands his zone and needs to learn to wait for pitches he can drive.
2022 Reds Top International Prospect: Elly De La Cruz, 3B/SS, Dominican Republic (No. 8)
To say the Reds are excited about De La Cruz would be an understatement.
After hitting well in his pro debut in the DSL in 2019, De La Cruz has really jumped on the prospect map for all 30 teams after earning a promotion from the ACL to Low-A in 2021, finishing with a .296/.336/.535 line over 61 games.
Elly is just scratching the surface with huge offensive potential as he refines his approach and the athleticism to stick at short, move to third (where he’s played) or even handle center field. (Callis, Boor, Dykstra - MLB.com - Jan 14, 2022)
March 2022: De La Cruz continued to impress and stand out on the backfields during 2022 spring training. He displays big tools across the board.
“He’s just a really exciting kid when you look at where he was 16 months ago and how he’s developed,” Reds vice president of player development Shawn Pender said. “You expect it to come with someone who's a talented player, but he’s come faster and further than any of us could have expected.
"And with an aptitude and a baseball IQ that is well beyond his years.
“His at-bats have been very mature,” Pender said. “I think he’s reducing his chase rate. He’s got power from both sides of the plate, certainly more so lefthanded, but that’s just because he gets more lefthanded at-bats.” (Doug Gray - BA - May 2022)
2022 Reds Prospect of the Year - Elly De La Cruz, SS/3B (No. 1, MLB No. 14)
Few prospects did more to explode on the scene than the 20-year-old De La Cruz did in 2022. The 6-foot-5 switch-hitter made it to Double-A and finished with a combined .304/.359/.586 line and turned in close to a 30-50 season, ending with 28 homers and 47 steals.
Elly De La Cruz, SS/3B, Reds (No. 10)
Based on four of the five tools, you could make a case for De La Cruz in the top five, even the top three. He’s a switch-hitter with at least plus power. He has plus-plus speed and the arm for shortstop, third base, or center field. So what gives?
A 30.8 percent strikeout rate at High-A and Double-A in 2022. The 21-year-old could well mash his way to a decent enough average because of his exceptional exit velocities, but history tells us hitters who struggle with contact will find the going even tougher as they climb the ladder, so that gave us enough pause to put De La Cruz at the 10th spot. (S Dykstra - MLB.com - Feb 1, 2023)
- May 9, 2023: No Major League Baseball team has ever hit three balls harder than 116 miles per hour in one game during the Statcast era, which started in 2015.
Elly De La Cruz, the top prospect in the Reds minor-league system, did that on his own for the Triple-A Louisville Bats.
De La Cruz doubled in the third inning to drive in a run. That hit measured 118.8 miles per hour off the bat. It’s the hardest hit ball in Triple-A and Major League Baseball this year. A home run in the fifth by De La Cruz measured 116.6 miles per hour and traveled 456 feet.
De La Cruz then hit a home run that measured 117.1 miles per hour in the sixth. It traveled 428 feet. (David Jablonski)
June 23, 2023: Reds rookie shortstop Elly De La Cruz hit for the cycle against the Braves, becoming the first Cincinnati player to achieve the feat in 34 years.
De La Cruz completed the cycle with a triple in the sixth inning, driving in a run. The 21-year-old became the first player in MLB history to hit for the cycle, steal a base and drive in four or more runs all within the first six innings of a game (since RBI became an official stat in 1920), per Opta Stats.
De La Cruz is the first Reds player with a cycle since Eric Davis did so on June 2, 1989, in a 9-4 win over the Padres.
- 2024 Changes: Elly De La Cruz appears to be gearing up for his encore next season.
Cincinnati Reds writer Bryce Spalding shared some videos this week of a new-looking swing from the Reds phenom De La Cruz. Most notably, De La Cruz seems to have done away with his high leg kick. Spalding noted that De La Cruz’s swing looks slower, more controlled, and slightly more open too. (Jan. 2024)
Elly has scouts and evaluators raving that his understanding of the game may be as impressive as his tools, and he embraces working to get better. De la Cruz split his time between shortstop and third base. He has a legitimate shot to stick at short thanks to excellent hands and his shotgun of a 70 grade arm, but he would fit at third or in center field as well. He is a 55 grade defender at shortstop.
Because of his size, he’s drawn some comparisons to the Pirates’ Oneil Cruz, and like Cruz, De La Cruz is eager to show he can stick at shortstop. He has the actions and plus arm to stay there for sure while also having no problems playing third and saw time at second with Licey this past winter. Just 21 for the 2023 season, he’s the kind of player who should have no ceiling placed on him, with the chance to be a true five-tool All-Star sooner rather than later. (BA - Spring 2023)
While De La Cruz is markedly bigger than his listed height and weight, there is little doubt he can play shortstop, with a plus arm and above-average defensive actions. He can play third and has the athleticism to play center field as well. As loud as his tools are, his makeup, feel for the game and passion while playing it all give him the chance to maximize those tools in terms of performance. (Spring 2022)
In 2021, De La Cruz is poised to make a jump in the rankings this year after coming out of nowhere. Signed in July 2018, he made his U.S. debut in 2021 and took off, showing he was way too good for the ACL and continuing to show off impressive tools in full-season ball. He’ll have to refine his approach, but he has feel and passion for the game, with the chance to stick at short. (Spring 2022)
De la Cruz has the 70 grade arm, agility and hands to be a good defender on the left side of the infield. He’s a good enough athlete that he could play anywhere. (J.J. Cooper - BAPH - Spring, 2022)
With an above-average arm and good instincts, De La Cruz will get plenty of opportunities to show he can stick at shortstop while continuing to see time at third base, and there’s been some thought that letting him roam around center field might work. There’s a long way to go here to determine exactly what kind of player De La Cruz becomes, but it’s safe to say he’s been one of the pleasant surprises of 2021. (Spring 2021)
- Elly has excellent speed and acceleration. He is a 70 grade runner on the 20-80 scale.
- 2023 Season: De La Cruz flashed out of this world talent in his rookie season, hitting 13 home runs and swiping 35 bases in only 98 games. He was also the game's fastest runner, averaging 30.5 feet per second.
- March 30-April 20, 2023: Elly began the season on the IL.