Why baseball’s most fascinating prospect is Elly De La Cruz: As the Reds call up shortstop, here are three things to know.

MLB NEWS

On Tuesday, the 6-foot-5 switch-hitter De La Cruz was called up to the major leagues.

The most intriguing baseball prospect at the moment is headed for the big leagues. Elly De La Cruz, a shortstop in the Cincinnati Reds organisation who is 21 years old, has been promoted after having a scorching hot start to the season at Triple-A Louisville.

Before being promoted, De La Cruz played in 38 Triple-A games and hit.298/.398/.633 with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases. He would have a 43-43 season’s worth of wins and losses if he could somehow keep that pace for 150 games. For those who are curious, no player in Major League Baseball history has ever achieved that accomplishment. That clearly demonstrates how dynamic and explosive De La Cruz’s game is.

Oh, and did we mention that he can hit both left and right? or that his listed height is 6′ 5″?

All things considered, De La Cruz is currently the most intriguing candidate available. In fact, De La Cruz is ranked No. 2 in our most recent MLB prospect rankings, just ahead of shortstop Jackson Holliday of the Baltimore Orioles. (As a 19-year-old, Holliday, the top pick in last year’s draught, has hit.358/.483/.606 across two levels.)

It’s time to make amends and learn more about De La Cruz if you don’t already know him. We’re prepared to assist. We’ve covered three important details concerning his game and future in the paragraphs below.

1. Hits the ball extremely hard

The easiest method for a rookie hitter to elevate their status internally given the growth of ball-tracking data is to demonstrate a talent for impacting the ball. Although exit velocity isn’t everything, slamming the ball has never been seen negatively in the history of the game. In addition, a batter who consistently smashes the ball hard probably possesses a variety of advantageous qualities, such as bat speed, strength, and barrel awareness.

It’s fair to say that De La Cruz strikes the ball powerfully. Look at this:

De La Cruz now holds the second-place spot among Triple-A batters who are qualified for the season in both the average exit velocity and the percentage of batted balls with exit velocities more than 95 mph. (In all instances, he is behind Bobby Dalbec, a Boston Red Sox infielder.) De La Cruz arrived on Sunday with times in those categories of 93 mph and 53.8%. Meanwhile, his typical launch angle was 6.8 degrees.

Here is a list of the qualified batters this season with single-digit average launch angles and average exit velocities more than 93 mph in case you’re curious how that compares to big-league hitters:

Player Avg EV Avg LA OPS+
Ronald Acuña Jr. 95.1 mph 7.6 degrees 157
Yandy Díaz 94.6 mph 8.8 degrees 175
J.D. Davis 93.1 mph 8.5 degrees 129
Juan Soto 93.1 mph 5.5 degrees 157

That’s a fantastic group to be a part of, as you can see from the OPS+ column.

On batted balls hit at 95 mph or higher, De La Cruz’s average launch angle increases to 11.4 degrees. In that regard, a slap hitter like Myles Straw is at 3.7 degrees, while a slugger like Aaron Judge is at 21.4 degrees. De La Cruz then nearly equalises the situation. The ball usually travels on a line when he strikes it with the most force. That is encouraging for his prospects of hitting for average and power.

2. Potential platoon problems

His problems with strikeouts have been the main worry over how De La Cruz’s game will translate to the majors. Although he has a high strikeout percentage (punching out in 27% of plate appearances even now), platoon-level analysis of his data suggests that his problems are mostly with southpaws.

De La Cruz has struck out in 29.5% of his plate appearances this year against left-handed pitchers, compared to 25.8% against right-handed pitchers. He continues to produce against lefties (his OPS is actually higher against them than against righties), but based on his underlying numbers, we do have some reservations about him becoming a nominal switch-hitter in the big. Look at this:

Split Swing% Contact% Chase%
LHP 47.1% 58.0% 34.5%
RHP 38.5% 72.1% 24.5%

De La Cruz’s surface-level data don’t indicate any cause for alarm. However, when you consider these figures, our concerns seem more logical given that he is whiffing against lefties at a very high rate. This year, only James Outman of the Los Angeles Dodgers has a qualified big-league contact rate below 60% (59.1%). Although De La Cruz has proven that his contact against southpaws counts, we doubt that this strategy will hold up in the majors.

Of course, the sample size for these data is quite small. De La Cruz is also talented and young enough to make the necessary improvements. Simply said, it’s one aspect of his game that we think is important to watch whenever he makes the switch to the majors.

3. Long-term position unclear

The National League’s most talented crop of infield prospects belongs to the Reds. They also employ De La Cruz, Noelvi Marte, Edwin Arroyo, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Cam Collier, Sal Stewart, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand, who were all acquired in trades for Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle, respectively.

That doesn’t even take into account the young players on the big-league roster, like as Jonathan India and past Rookie of the Year Award winner Spencer Steer, whose status is rising after making a change to his swing.

In contrast, India recently said of De La Cruz’s anticipated arrival to C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic: “It’s part of the game. There are always males following you. It won’t matter if I just play well. All I can do is play to the best of my ability and make it difficult for them to decide.

The Reds have a lot of flexibility when it comes to trades and roster-building strategies thanks to all of those infielders. It is also challenging to predict who will play where. De La Cruz, for example, has only played shortstop and third base this season, but the Reds may decide to move him down the defensive scale in order to make room elsewhere, a luxury made possible by his offensive potential.

We can guarantee that De La Cruz will be entertaining to watch wherever he ends up playing.