Reds’ top prospect Elly De La Cruz gets high praise from Cincy legend: ‘Elly’s phenomenal’

Ninety-nine games.

That’s how many games the Reds’ Elly De La Cruz, 20, has played this season, 73 in High-A and 26 in Double-A. In these 99 often stunning, dynamic, and exhilarating games, De La Cruz has not only captured the attention of Cincinnati fans around the world, but potential hounds, card collectors – good luck trying to find his 2022 Bowman-Mojo refractor for less than $25 – and admirers of exciting baseball players across the country.

One of those fans knows a thing or two about being an electrifying Reds prospect.

“Elly is phenomenal,” Eric Davis told The Sporting News last month while standing on the field at Dodger Stadium before the annual Futures game. “And he’s even a better student of the game than a player, so that’s the exciting part. Our organization is thrilled to have him.”

as they should be.

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In the ranking of the sport’s top 100 prospects, De La Cruz rose from 76th in the preseason rankings to 15th in the midseason update. Similarly, at Baseball America, De La Cruz rose from 77th preseason to 20th midseason as his performance on the field that summer matched his considerable talent.

At High-A Dayton at the start of the season, De La Cruz hit .303 with .968 OPS. He’s promoted to Double-A Chattanooga, batting .321 with 1.012 OPS and taking on players who average four years older than him. Combined between the two levels, he has 27 homers and 36 stolen bases.

This power/speed combo reminds fans of a certain former Reds superstar. Humor while I remind you of Peak Eric Davis’ amazing homers/stolen base totals…

1986: 27 HR, 80 SB in 132 games
1987: 37 HR, 50 SB in 129 games

Don’t overlook the game totals. Davis released those numbers while missing games with injuries for more than a month. I won’t dwell on trivia for too long, but if I had the power to go back in baseball history and grant a player a career in full health, I’d vote for Eric Davis just to see him on set, setting records that were never broken would become. If you want a longer journey down the what-might-been trail, read this.

I asked Davis about the comparisons.

“I see a lot of traits in this boy,” he said with a grin on his face. “And the most important thing is that he can do it from both sides of the plate.”

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Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that De La Cruz is also a switch hitter. He’s shown more power as a lefty (23 homers), but he’s no slouch from the right, hitting .296 with a .352 on-base percentage and hitting four homers in 125 plate appearances.

I wanted to ask an outside observer what he thought of the inevitable Davis comparisons, so I traded DMs with’s Jim Callis, a veritable industry giant in the baseball prospect world.

His thoughts: “I understand why fans might want to compete with Eric Davis because De La Cruz’s athleticism and power/speed combination is electric, but it’s also a bit unfair because that sets the bar so high. Eric Davis is one of the best baseball athletes I’ve ever seen. The top of de La Cruz is crazy too. It’s so much fun to watch.”

Isn’t that the truth. I see a lot of videos scrolling by on my Twitter timelines and I ignore most of them because who has the time? But Elly De La Cruz is a must see.

Even as he took to the field with the other members of the Future Stars game, De La Cruz looked like a future star. He’s a 6-5 shortstop with five tool ability, but what you really couldn’t miss was the big ol’ smile on his face, his love of the game.

“He’s like that every day when he steps onto the baseball field, whether it’s A-ball or apprentice leagues,” Davis said. “That’s him, and that’s what you get every day of the week, the impressive thing about him. He doesn’t let the game or the expectations get the best of him and that’s important.”

Though De La Cruz has only recently burst into the national spotlight, Davis has long been eyeing him, even before the Reds signed him as an amateur free agent from the Dominican Republic in July 2018 for a modest $65,000 bonus . He’s gone from 6-2 to 6-5 and is still filling in.

“I don’t think anything is obvious to a kid, but you just saw the individual abilities that they have,” Davis said. “One didn’t overshadow the other, but as he gets older you see him put it all into one package.”

In his first taste of pro ball in 2019, De La Cruz had a .733 OPS with one homer and three stolen bases in 43 games in the Dominican Summer League. The pandemic naturally brought minor league baseball to a halt in the summer of 2020, and so it took a minute for Reds fans to have much news about De La Cruz.

De La Cruz played 61 games between Rookie Ball and Low-A in 2021 and posted an .874 OPS with eight home runs, 42 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. That was more than enough performance combined with his obvious talents to put him on the top 100 prospects list.

“The physical tools are definitely there at De La Cruz,” Callis said. “It’s really just a matter of at-bats and replays. He’s only 20 years old and he’s aggressive with the record. He’ll have to work on his record discipline going into the majors, but he’s got plenty of time.”

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The key for the Reds is bringing in De La Cruz in a way that highlights his strengths and natural talents while honing his approach as the level of competition increases.

“His joy in stealing bases and making things happen is what defines Elly De La Cruz, being able to beat you without even getting a hit,” Davis said. “That’s what we’re trying to make him understand as an organization: you don’t have to score every time, but you can affect the game in more than one way. You see that on the defensive end with the shortstop, with his throws and everything.”

When can Cincinnati fans expect to see De La Cruz in the majors? At this rate, next season is certainly not impossible. In fact, both and Baseball America are predicting a 2023 ETA in the Bigs.

Reds fans can’t wait. And neither does Eric Davis.

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