Elly-Mania: Cincinnati Reds rookie sensation Elly De La Cruz. Anyone who follows the Reds can attest there has been a buzz around the team since his arrival. Even Elly had to make sure the California Angel’s Shohei Ohtani was real. Photo: Courtesy of Cincinnati Reds of Major League Baseball
Who is Elly De La Cruz – Get your 44 T-shirt
Elly De La Cruz, 21, is a professional baseball infielder – shortstop and third baseman – for the Cincinnati Reds. He signed as an international free agent with the Cincinnati Reds of Major League Baseball in 2018. Then, on June 6, 2023, De La Cruz made his long-awaited debut. He is being billed as the Reds’ most anticipated major-league debut since at least Jay Bruce 15 years ago.
Elly De La Cruz, affectionately known around the Reds clubhouse as “La Cocoa,” went unnoticed in 2018 and 2019. Just the same, the Reds wunderkind and his exciting talents are taking baseball by storm this season. In his seven weeks in the big leagues, the switch-hitting, hard-throwing phenom has proven to be one of baseball’s most exciting talents and best young players.
De La Cruz’s impressive abilities can inflict harm on opposing teams at any time. He ranks in the 99th percentile of MLB players in sprint speed and the 96th percentile in max velocity. He ranks in the 98th percentile in arm strength and 98th percentile in top exit velocity of his bat ball.
Eye on the Ball
In 68 games played, in which he has garnered 278 at-bats, De La Cruz has amassed 126 total bases. His total bases include 70 hits, yielding 11 doubles, six triples, and 11 home runs – only two have come right-handed. De La Cruz has batted in 50 runs and reached base on balls on 20 occasions. His six triples this season rank 3rd amongst National League players. He has also struck out 104 times, leaving De La Cruz with a batting average of .252, an on-base percentage of .303, a slugging percentage of .453, and an on-base slugging percentage of .757.
De La Cruz’s offensive barrage includes hiting for the cycle in only 15 Major League games, a feat not accomplished by a Reds hitter in 34 years. With his accomplishment, the Dominican outfielder became the youngest player in 51 years to accomplish this feat since Cesar Cedeno in 1972.
Getting Home, One Base at a Time
De La Cruz’s physique may remind track and field fans of a legendary Jamaican sprinter. De La Cruz, who stands 6 feet 5 inches tall, is the same height as world-renowned sprinter Usain Bolt, who holds the world records for the 200m and 100m. During his career, Bolt’s fastest speed was 27.5 mph. De La Cruz reached 21.75 mph early in his 2023 season.
The Reds rookie averages a sprint rate of slightly more than 30 feet per second, which is not the fastest in the MLB. De La Cruz was clocked at 31.9 feet per second in June 2023. Bobby Witt Jr. of the Kansas City Royals and Bubba Thompson of the Texas Rangers had the fastest average sprint speed in Major League Baseball at 30.4 feet per second. Corbin Carroll of the Arizona Diamondbacks, De La Cruz’s main competition for National League Rookie of the Year, averaged a faster sprint speed of 30.2 feet per second.
“He’s just a really electric player,” California Angels manager Phil Nevin said of De La Cruz. And he can really run down the line.” The electric De La Cruz has successfully stolen 21 bases on 27 attempts (.778). His stolen bases ranks him 14th among National League players in stolen bases. He ranks 4th in number of times caught stealing.
Heart in the Game
Is there anything Elly De La Cruz of the Cincinnati Reds can’t do? De La Cruz has proven that he can cause havoc at any time, not just on offense. De La Cruz has started 66 games as a defensive player in 71 games. Of his 66 games started, 29 at shortstop (259.0 innings,.986 fielding percentage), 36 at third base (324.0 innings,.959 fielding percentage). He also started one game as a designated hitter. He made seven errors in 221 total chances, one at third base and six at shortstop. In baseball, total chances represents the number of plays a defensive player has participated in.
In the Record Books
Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan, a key member of the Cincinnati Reds’ famed Big Red Machine, said, “A good base stealer should make the whole infield jumpy. Whether you steal or not, you’re changing the rhythm of the game. If the pitcher is concerned about you, he isn’t concentrating enough on the batter.” With an insatiable desire to help his team win a game, no matter the cost, De La Cruz is doing his part to change the rhythm of the game.
De La Cruz is the fastest player in MLB history to reach 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases. He accomplished the milestone in 64 games. Previously, seven-time MVP Barry Bonds held the record. Bonds hit 10 home runs and stole 20 bases in 65 games.
The most shocking and notable of his baserunning stats came the weekend before the 2023 All-Star break. De La Cruz stole second, third, and home after the same plate appearance. Only one other player in baseball’s expansion era dating back to 1961 has accomplished this feat. Hall of Famer Rod Carew did so in 1969.
De La Cruz’s arm strength is almost unfathomable. De La Cruz broke the record for the fastest throw by an infielder in the Statcast era (since 2015) on July 16, 2023, with a 97.9 mph bullet against the Milwaukee Brewers. In 2022, Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz set a record of 97.8 mph. Fernando Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres is third and fourth at 97.3 mph and 96.8 mph, respectively, while Cruz is fifth at 96.7 mph.