De La Cruz is dominating LIDOM pitching so far

November 1st, 2022

Elly De La Cruz for MVP?

The Reds' top prospect has been that good in the early stages of the Dominican Winter League season, and his production for Tigres del Licey in a 12-4 win over Aguilas Cibaenas on Monday night only boosted his case. De La Cruz went 3-for-4 with a triple, a walk, one RBI and three runs scored.

The 20-year-old shortstop raised his LIDOM slash line to .405/.490/.667 in 12 games. No other qualified hitter on the circuit has a batting average over .353, and his 1.157 OPS is the league’s only one north of 1.000. De La Cruz has four extra-base hits across his past five games, and he’s reached base safely in all 11 contests he’s started. Only his double-play partner for Licey -- Sixth-ranked Mets prospect Ronny Mauricio -- has more RBIs than De La Cruz’s 12 (Mauricio has 13). The electric duo is a big part of why Licey sits atop the standings at 9-3.

De La Cruz possesses 60-grade power and speed (on a 20-80 scale), and his best highlight Monday showed off why those tools make him MLB Pipeline’s No. 14 overall prospect. He hammered a pitch over the head of the center fielder, who retrieved the ball from the warning track only as De La Cruz raced around second and cruised into third for a stand-up triple. When a relay throw to third trickled away, the 6-foot-5 speedster took off for home and slid head first to beat the tag from the Aguilas’ catcher despite the play being backed up well.

An eye-popping performance in his home country of the Dominican Republic continues what has been a rapid rise for De La Cruz through Cincinnati’s system. He played his way into a full-season cameo at the end of 2021 and continued that surge between High-A Dayton and Double-A Chattanooga in ‘22, batting .304/.359/.586 with 28 homers among his 68 extra-base hits while also stealing 47 bases in 53 attempts.

De La Cruz’s winter ball performance, paired with what fellow Top 100 infielders Noelvi Marte and Matt McLain have shown in the Arizona Fall League, has pumped promise into the future of Cincinnati's infield.