CINCINNATI -- Not only has Elly De La Cruz zoomed from relative obscurity to being one of the top Minor Leaguers in all of baseball over the past two years, the Reds shortstop prospect did it in nearly historic fashion.
Ranked No. 1 in the Reds organization and No. 15 overall by MLB Pipeline, De La Cruz finished 2022 batting .304 with a .945 OPS over 120 games combined at High-A Dayton and Double-A Chattanooga. He was almost the rare 30/40 hitter, finishing with 28 home runs and 47 stolen bases. Only five players in the past 40 years have reached 30 homers and 40 stolen bases in a Minor League season: Darryl Strawberry, 1982; Ken Gehrhart, 1983; Ruben Rivera, 1994; Grant Desme, 2009; and George Springer, 2013. And only two players -- Jose Cardenal (1961) and Willie Royster (1981) -- have reached the 30/50 mark since at least 1958.
De La Cruz, 20, recently did one of his first English-language interviews on the MLB Pipeline Podcast with MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and Sam Dykstra via Zoom and explained what helped him put together an exceptional season at the plate.
“Be patient at the plate, wait for my pitch. For me, it’s the same because it’s baseball,” De La Cruz said. “At the Double-A level, I’ve been learning to have more patience at the plate. My routine is to try to hit every day from both sides. I used to feel more comfortable on the left side, but now I feel comfortable on both sides. My focus is the same every AB. I try to hit the ball hard every time.”
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, the switch-hitting De La Cruz was signed by the Reds for just $65,000 out of Monte Plata in the Dominican Republic in 2018. He was an unranked prospect in 2020 before the pandemic canceled the season, and he did not make his debut on American soil until 2021.
Because of De La Cruz’s size, and the Reds’ strong organizational depth at shortstop, there has been speculation that he will eventually be moved off of shortstop. He can also play third base, and some believe he could be a center fielder because of his speed and range.
De La Cruz would prefer not to move and looks up to a rookie big league shortstop currently making a statement with his bat -- Oneil Cruz of the Pirates.
“I like watching him play because he’s so good,” De La Cruz said. “He’s the type of shortstop I haven’t seen. He’s taller and I’m taller too. I can play shortstop too.”
Chattanooga’s season ended on Sunday, and De La Cruz is scheduled to head home for a break before reporting to training camp for winter ball. To hear more of the De La Cruz interview, click here.