Undrafted in 2017, De La Cruz now stands tall among Phils' prospects

May 29th, 2023

ATLANTA – Back in February, Phillies prospect took the short walk from Carpenter Complex to BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Fla., to play the final few innings in the Phillies’ Grapefruit League opener against the Yankees.

He smashed a home run to center field in the eighth inning.

Back in the Phillies’ clubhouse, multiple players, including third baseman , raved about the 6-foot-8, 210-pound outfielder.

“I’ve been around him a lot,” Bohm said Sunday at Truist Park. “He was already in Clearwater when I got drafted [in 2018]. He was just a big, tall, lanky kid. I don’t think he played a lot of baseball growing up, but he was one of those guys that you could see, the more he played the better he got.

“I remember he was hitting balls over the lights during BP on the back fields. He had massive power. Three, four years later, he’s putting it together pretty well.”

De La Cruz, 23, is the Phillies’ No. 9 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He is batting .273 with 10 home runs, 22 RBIs and an .834 OPS in 191 plate appearances with Double-A Reading. De La Cruz needs to work on his plate discipline, but he has been reducing his strikeout rate over the years: 34.4% in 2019, 36.7% in 2021, 29.8% in 2022 and 25.7% in 2023.

De La Cruz will be one heck of a story if he makes the big leagues. Nobody selected him out of George Washington High School (Manny Ramirez’s alma mater) in New York City in the 2017 MLB Draft, so he signed with the Phillies as a free agent.

He has played himself into a prospect that current Phillies are watching.

“He such a big, long kid, so we’re pretty similar in that regard,” Bohm said. “He’s shortened up his swing a lot. He’s kind of simplified things.”

The big three
Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski spoke Thursday about the state of the Phillies’ starting pitching depth. It’s a concern, he said.

Naturally, fans wants to know if one of the team’s top three prospects might help.

Right-hander , the club’s No. 1 prospect, is throwing short bullpen sessions in Clearwater, meaning in front of the mound from 50-55 feet. The Phillies placed Painter on the 60-day injured list to start the Minor League season after he injured the UCL in his right elbow on March 1.

Dombrowski said he expects Painter to be pitching competitively sometime this summer. He said he still believes Painter could help the Phillies at some point.

“He’s making strides, but we’re being very careful with him, very slow, but he is up on the mound at this point.”

Right-hander , the Phils’ No. 2 prospect, has struggled recently. He has a 10.13 ERA in his last three starts with Reading. In 13 1/3 innings across those starts, he allowed 13 hits, 16 runs (15 earned runs), 12 walks and one hit batter. He struck out 16.

Righty , the organization’s No. 3 prospect, has a 1.04 ERA in three starts with Reading since he returned from the injured list (oblique). He struck out 10 and walked four in 8 2/3 innings during those starts.

“You’re always hoping,” Dombrowski said, asked if he hopes one of those three forces the Phillies’ hand. “But I think when you’re talking about prospects -- Painter, Abel, McGarry -- you still have to do what’s best for them. I don’t want to rush. I don’t want to do anything that hurts their long-term development. They are treated as they need to be treated, not because of our needs.”