Elly De La Cruz, Reds tremendous prospect who performs like a online game character, needs to be seen to be believed

“He’s simply … totally different.”

That was me, Wednesday evening, over and over as I attempted to elucidate Elly De La Cruz, the Cincinnati Reds phenom who over the course of simply two video games within the majors has taken the baseball world by storm. I discovered myself speaking about launch angles, exit velocity, and velocity from residence to 3rd.

Ultimately she stopped me.

“The place did he come from?”

That story begins within the Dominican Republic, the place De La Cruz was born, in Sabana Grande de Boya, a city within the southeast area of the nation. Whereas Sabana Grande de Boya didn’t have the sort of organized leagues you see in different elements of the Dominican Republic, De La Cruz confirmed sufficient potential as a younger youngster that the brother of his first coach supplied to let him transfer in with him, so he might prepare extra.

At six years previous, De La Cruz moved away from residence. He would spend years away from residence, studying the sport and discovering increasingly more aggressive leagues to foster his expertise. On the age of ten, De La Cruz moved to Santo Domingo, to play in a way more aggressive league within the capital metropolis. He was a pitcher and a left fielder, and practiced at a prime academy.

However whereas different gamers have been being signed by MLB groups, De La Cruz was not, and ultimately puzzled if it was time to step away from baseball.

That’s when a household, the Vilorios, took him in, helped him get some new gear, and put him on the course to the place he’s right this moment. As De La Cruz stored getting minimize throughout tryouts, and stored seeing different gamers signed by skilled groups, he began to marvel if he would ever get the same probability.

“No one actually observed me,” De La Cruz mentioned of that point again in the course of the spring. “Scouts didn’t actually like me. Within the academy, I wasn’t making the cuts throughout tryouts, and that’s why I needed to return residence.”

However an opportunity encounter with the Reds modified every little thing. Cincinnati had a scout on the town to check out one other shortstop. De La Cruz was. instructed to attend the exercise, partly to make the opposite participant look good.

“In my nation, since I wasn’t ok, I bought paired with that shortstop to make him look good,” De La Cruz mentioned. “The following day, the Reds scouts mentioned they got here to observe me. The following day, extra folks got here and watched. Then they signed me.”

Nonetheless, De La Cruz did sufficient that day, and the Reds ultimately signed him as a free agent, to a $65,000 contract.

The street forward remained bumpy, as he languished within the decrease ranges of the Reds’ group throughout 2018 and 2019. When COVID hit De La Cruz, like many minor league gamers, puzzled if that may be the top of the street. Cincinnati minimize two minor league associates, however De La Cruz survived that spherical of cuts.

His first huge break got here on the Reds’ post-draft camp in 2021. When he flashed his energy at these exercises, he was despatched to play for Cincinnati’s Arizona Advanced League group. He hit .400 with 11 extra-base hits and 13 RBI in simply 11 video games.

The leap was right here.

De La Cruz was promoted to Low-A for the remainder of 2021, and in 50 video games he batted .269 with 7 triples and 5 residence runs. He started 2022 in Excessive-A, and over the course of 73 video games De La Cruz posted a slash line of .302/.359/.609, with an OPS of .968. He hit 20 homers in that stretch, with 28 residence runs.

He would bounce to AA subsequent, and in 47 video games De La Cruz posted a slash line of .305/.357/.553, with 8 HRs and 19 stolen bases.

De La Cruz began this season in AAA, taking part in for the Louisville Bats, the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate. In simply 38 video games for the Bats this season, De La Cruz mashed 12 residence runs, serving to push his OPS to 1.031. He additionally stole 11 bases throughout that point.

That’s when the decision got here.

In order that’s the backdrop. However what are the traits that bought him to the majors, and have the baseball world entranced?

He hits the ball insanely onerous

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Cincinnati Reds

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports activities

If you happen to’ve made it this far, you in all probability know that they observe every little thing in baseball. However one of many newest actions within the sport is monitoring information resembling exit velocity, bat velocity, launch angle, and extra information factors on the plate.

That’s how we all know that De La Cruz doesn’t simply hit baseballs, he usually destroys them.

For instance, again in Could the Bats received in comeback vogue, beating the Columbus Clippers 10-9. De La Cruz recorded a pair of residence runs and a double in that sport. However what stood out about that evening was not the manufacturing, however how he produced these numbers. De La Cruz posted exit velocities of 118.8 mph (double), 117.1 mph (428-foot homer) and 116.6 mph (456-foot homer).

“It was the primary time any participant – and even any MLB group – hit three balls at an exit velocity above 116 mph in the identical sport since Statcast started recording information in 2015, in keeping with MLB.com’s analysis. De La Cruz’s double at 118.8 mph was the hardest-hit ball by any participant within the majors or Triple-A this season.”

Earlier than getting the decision, De La Cruz ranked second in all of MiLB with a mean exit velocity of 93 mph, and second in MiLB with 53.8% of his batted balls exceeding an exit velocity of 95 mph. He did this whereas sustaining a mean launch angle of 6.8 levels.

What does this imply? He hits the ball onerous, and he usually hits line drives.

CBS Sports activities checked out these numbers and in contrast them with present MLB gamers. Taking a look at gamers with a mean exit velocity over 93 mph, and a single-digit launch angle, they discovered 4 gamers in that class: Ronald Acuña Jr., Yandy Diaz, J.D. Davis, and Juan Soto.

Fairly super firm.

It didn’t take lengthy for De La Cruz to duplicate these numbers within the majors. Take his first MLB hit, a double to the hole in right-center with an exit velocity of 112:

He topped that together with his first MLB residence run Wednesday, which had an exit velocity of 114.8 mph, and traveled 458 ft:

(Once more, that is 92 mph up-and-in to De La Cruz, and he not solely pulls this, he mashes it to the again row of the bleachers. As I stored muttering to my spouse Wednesday evening, “it’s so onerous to get your palms to this, not to mention do that to the baseball.” I’m grateful she places up with me.)

It’s value noting that the exit velocity on his first hit was the largest quantity for the Reds this season, till he topped it Wednesday evening:

Now let’s speak about these different two numbers.

He’s insanely quick

One of many frequent methods to explain De La Cruz is that he’s a “create-a-player.” The sort of athlete you’d create when logging on to play MLB The Present for the primary time. As a result of not solely does De La Cruz hit for energy, however he flashes super velocity on the bases.

Watch this play from Louisville, the place De La Cruz scores from first on a chopper up the center:

That’s … for lack of a greater phrase, totally different.

He has proven that velocity already within the majors. As famous above, in his first sport he bought from residence to second in 7.74 seconds, an eye-popping quantity. However he was not happy with only a double Wednesday evening, when he did one thing now we have not seen within the majors but this season:

“Is he for actual?”

Perhaps not?

Completely different.

And should you needed one other instance of his velocity, take a look at this play from Sunday towards the St. Louis Cardinals when De La Cruz notched an infield single.

As he beat out a floor ball hit to the primary baseman:

Baseball has seen younger phenoms earlier than, I’m sufficiently old to recollect a lot of them. However De La Cruz does appear totally different. A 6’5, switch-hitting shortstop who combines insane velocity with super energy. The sort of participant that you just dreamed about rising as much as turn out to be while you have been taking part in within the yard. The sort of participant you’d create as your self while you picked up the most recent copy of MLB The Present.

He’s that participant proper now.

Because the Reds’ play-by-play group mentioned in that final clip above, you higher get to the ballpark, or to the TV, to observe him.

As a result of he’s totally different.

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