Reds' prospects to watch in All-Star Futures Game

July 13th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Mark Sheldon's Reds Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Shortstop Elly De La Cruz and left-handed pitcher Andrew Abbott are two Reds prospects who have not only impressed with their performances, but with how fast they are pushing their way up the organization. Last week, both players were named to the National League squad for the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Los Angeles.

De La Cruz, who is only 20, and is ranked as Cincinnati’s No. 2 prospect and No. 49 overall by MLB Pipeline, has been generating buzz since the early days of Minor League camp as he’s grown to 6-foot-5 and bulked up to 200 pounds with plenty of power.

In 72 games for High-A Dayton this season, De La Cruz is batting .303/.361/.610 with 20 home runs and 52 RBIs. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2018 for $65,000 and didn’t play a full season in the United States until last year.

“I think it’s been kind of as expected,” Reds vice president of player development Shawn Pender said on Thursday. “He’s a very gifted player, a very self-motivated player. Like every good player, he will have to go through some transition. His strikeouts (92 in 277 at-bats) need to go down a little bit. He needs to be more selective. But with his bat speed, this is a guy that hit a ground ball 12 days ago that got to the right of the second baseman and it was a double.”

On Thursday, the night he was selected to the Futures Game, De La Cruz slugged three home runs during a doubleheader.

“It’s an All-Star Game, so you got to enjoy it, and I’m going to enjoy every bit of it,” De La Cruz said via a translator. “I’m very proud of myself and the work I’ve been doing, all my work to this moment. I’m very proud for accomplishing that and very happy, very happy.”

Abbott, 23, had a 3-0 record with a 0.67 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP in five games (four starts) with Dayton before being promoted to Double-A Chattanooga. In 10 starts with Chattanooga, he is 4-4 with a 6.11 ERA and 1.45 WHIP.

“He’s struggling the last couple of outings but that’s good,” Pender said. “He had just been so dominant in Dayton. He just needed to understand how he has to execute pitches better with his quality stuff. Because we’re going to have to limit his innings a little bit, we wanted to make sure he got as many higher-level innings in for him as we could. This was a way to do it. We felt it was time to give him another challenge.”

Abbott was a second-round pick in the 2021 Draft out of the University of Virginia. He is ranked No. 11 in the organization. Between college and his first pro season last year, he threw 132 2/3 innings overall, prompting extra caution in ’22.

“He’s very self-motivated, self-focused and does a really good job with that,” Pender said. “I’m not surprised he’s in Double-A but surprised he’s in Double-A that quickly. He’s got an above-average breaking ball, he’s got a 55 fastball that could play at 60, above average. His changeup has gotten better. He’s a guy that has three legitimate weapons with some real legitimate swing-and-miss. He’s got to figure out how to sequence them better and be able to locate all three of them more effectively.”

The seven-inning AL vs. NL Futures Game will take place at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, July 16 at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. It will be broadcast live on Peacock and SiriusXM, with MLB Network producing the telecast and re-airing the game at 9 a.m. ET on Sunday.