Who is Elly De La Cruz?

June 6th, 2023

Elly De La Cruz is finally here.

After an incredible start to the season at Triple-A, the Reds officially called De La Cruz up on June 6, 2023, for their game against the Dodgers. The 21-year-old, who was MLB Pipeline's No. 4 prospect when he earned his callup, features a rare blend of size, speed and power. He hit .297 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs at Triple-A before earning his promotion 

Here’s what you need to know about De La Cruz, who has already produced some of the fastest exit velocities in baseball, along with recording a home-to-third time faster than anyone in MLB.

MLB organization: Reds
Birthdate: Jan. 11, 2002 (Age 21 in 2023)
Primary position: SS
Height/weight: 6-foot-5, 200 lbs.
Bats/throws: Switch/right
Hometown: Sabana Grande de Boya, Dominican Republic
Signed: July 2, 2018 (by CIN)

He's already breaking records

Despite not reaching The Show until June of 2023, De La Cruz still found a way to make some history at Triple-A. On May 9, he became the first player in the Statcast Era to hit balls with an exit velocity of 115+ mph from both sides of the plate when he hit a 116.6 mph home run batting left-handed and a 117.1 mph home run batting right-handed. Three weeks later, he ended May with a 432-foot walk-off home run that just added to his incredible resume.

In total, he's recorded the hardest-hit ball in the Majors or Minors this year (118.8 mph) and has hit five home runs of 116+ mph this year. That's not far from the total of all big leaguers combined (nine), with Giancarlo Stanton the only big leaguer to record multiple home runs with of 116+ mph.

He stood out in Spring Training

While De La Cruz wasn’t expected to beat out Jose Barrero or Kevin Newman for the Reds’ starting shortstop job in Spring Training in 2023, it didn’t take long for him to stand out.

In fact, it took him next to no time at all. On March 4, Cruz picked up his first hit of the spring with a triple to deep right field off an 100 mph fastball from former Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman. In his next at-bat, Cruz crushed a home run to right field.

"It definitely helped with confidence, but he's taking good swings, he's handling himself great at camp," Reds manager David Bell said after De La Cruz's big game. "He's doing everything you'd want him to do."

He had a breakout year in 2022

After signing with the Reds as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2018, De La Cruz shot up ranking boards in 2021 when he hit .400 in 11 games in the Arizona Complex League. He then earned a promotion to the Single-A Daytona Tortugas, where he hit .269 in 50 games.

After being added to the Reds’ 40-man roster prior to the start of the 2022 season, De La Cruz spent most of 2022 with the High-A Dayton Dragons, where he hit .302 with 20 home runs and 52 RBIs.

He earned a promotion to the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts in July 2022, where he hit .305 with an OPS of .910 in 47 games. With 28 home runs and 47 stolen bases between the two levels, Cruz was named the Top MLB Prospect across the three High-A Leagues.

He’s carrying on the Reds’ legacy

At Spring Training in 2023, De La Cruz was assigned No. 44, which once belonged to Cincinnati great Eric Davis. While 44 isn’t retired by the Reds, it holds extreme significance within the franchise, as Davis was a five-tool player who had an incredible nine-year run with the club. As a final cherry on top, De La Cruz spent some time this spring working with Davis, who is a special assistant for player performance with the Reds.

"That’s what they gave me," De La Cruz said when asked about the number. "It’s an honor to wear that number. We’re going to give it all our best to live up to that number.”

Not too big to stick at SS

At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, De La Cruz draws some natural comparisons to Pittsburgh’s Oneil Cruz, another tall, powerful shortstop prospect who generates some questions defensively due to his size. While he may never win a Gold Glove at short, De La Cruz projects to be a solid defender there due to his range and 60-grade arm.

But even if Cruz ends up moving positions, he should easily settle into an everyday spot anywhere in the infield, as he's already logged time at third base and second in the Minors.