There’s a lot going on Daytona right now that should have Tortugas fans excited to get to the ballpark. After a slow start to the season that included some time spent on the injured list, 2020 1st round pick Austin Hendrick has really begun to heat up and turn things around of late.

Over the last three weeks, Austin Hendrick has failed to get on base in just one of the 17 games he’s played in. He’s gone 17-59 with 16 walks, seven doubles, and three home runs for Daytona in that span. The now 20-year-old outfielder has scored 12 runs and driven in 13 more while hitting .288/.447/.559.

The walks have been there all season. So have the strikeouts. Right now through 210 plate appearances on the season, Hendrick has a walk rate of 21% (44 walks). He also has a strikeout rate of 36% (75 strikeouts). Both numbers are incredibly high.

What makes it tougher to truly gauge is why exactly it’s happening. Don’t get me wrong – there is absolutely swing-and-miss happening here. But the Low-A Southeast isn’t like any other league in baseball right now. They are using the automated strikezone this season utilizing Hawkeye (the same system in Major League Baseball that supplies all of the Statcast data). That’s in place in every ballpark in the league….. except in Daytona where the home plate umpires are still making the calls. That’s meant that all season the players on the Tortugas have had to try and figure out two different strikezones – one at home and one on the road. But there’s more – two weeks ago the league changed up the size and shape of the automated strikezone. It’s now a few inches wider and a few inches shorter than the one from earlier in the season. Daytona’s now had three different strikezones to try and figure out during the season.

When it comes to looking at the stats in the league this season, knowing the context here is going to be quite important.

Elly De La Cruz. Wow.

“Wow.” That was the text message I got last week from a scout about Elly De La Cruz. Last night was another one of those “wow” moments/games for the 19-year-old infielder in Daytona. He went 3-4 with a walk, double, triple, and a steal. He has only played in 21 games for Daytona, and he only had 11 games in Goodyear with the Arizona Complex League Reds, but he’s been the story of the year on the farm. In those 32 games he’s now hitting .331/.370/.676 with 12 doubles, 7 triples, and 7 home runs. That’s 26-extra-base hits in 32 games played.

The old saying is that triples are more a function of luck than speed. And they are probably mostly right about that. But we also know that speed certainly helps. Elly De La Cruz is a plus runner who has plenty of speed to burn. And despite playing in just 21 games in the Low-A Southeast he’s currently second in the league with 5 triples – just one behind Victor Mesa of Jupiter. Mesa has played in 78 games.

27 Responses

  1. Topher

    Idk if you do this and it’s okay if you don’t want to but do you have any current or former players that that Hendricks and Elly De La remind you of?

    • Stock

      Hard to find a comparison to Hendrick. I can’t remember anyone with such huge K% and BB%. Gallo is a good comp but his ISO was double where Hendrick currently is. Maybe it was the Covid Layoff. As Doug pointed out Hendrick has Gallo like the last couple of weeks.

      For De La Cruz I am thinking Javier Baez. At age 19 Baez was in A ball and had a 3% BB % and a 20% K%. His OPS was .979. I think De La Cruz’ numbers will be better than Baez in all three categories by the end of the year.

      From August 1 – YE I am hoping De La Cruz has the following:
      BB% greater than 8%
      K% between 12% and 16%
      OPS greater than 1.10

      If he does this he is a top 50 prospect. Possibly top 25.

      • Topher

        I agree with both comparisons. One guy I think of for Hendricks is Hunter renfroe. I think that close to his floor. I think his max is a Pete Alonso type hitter and Gallo falls in right in between.
        I also think the Baez comparison for De La Cruz is fair. I will say at his age and having that kind of power at a position like SS is impressive. With Barrero, McLain, De La Cruz, and two other guys that I can’t come up with at the moment, our middle infield should be a STRENGTH for years to come. I have a feeling De La Cruz will be moved to third base at some point though.

      • DaveCT

        I think its pretty hard to get an accurate comp for Hendrick yet, given this is his first shot at full season ball and the challenges of that alone. But man, I’d love to see the K’s drop. Gallo, Aaron Judge, are the exceptions, I think, for succeeding in spite of the K’s.

      • Gaffer

        It’s important to remember that K/BB ratio is still a good predictor. Several studies of players with both high K and BB rates do better in general than players with lower K rates but even low BB rates. That being said these numbers could be outside of ANY prior comparison (especially with a lowish ISO). Maybe check out Delino Desheilds (the dad) as he had high BB, High K, and low iso. Hopefully not a drew Stubbs comp.

        I would love to see if he is Stiking out looking at a high rate as that can be fixed easier than swinging. You wonder if it’s also just more of the evolution of baseball that we should get used to 3 outcome hitters.

  2. Brent

    Doug-still dealing with a relatively small sample size, but would you move De La Cruz up on your prospect list based on his performance to date?

    I understand you had almost no game stats to go off on your recent update. I was shocked to see him so high at BA

    • Stock

      I had him at 7 at midseason and now have him tied with Hendrix at 5. He could be as high as #3 by YE on my list. If he finishes with a BB% higher than 8% and a K% less than 17% from August 1 – YE I think he will be #3 on my list. That means top 50 prospect in Baseball.

    • Doug Gray

      Yes, I’d move him up significantly based on what I know today versus what I knew three and a half weeks ago when I finalized my list. Crazy how quickly things flipped on that one.

      • Arthur

        Indeed. But crazy in a good way. You like to see guys take off, instead of tumble down the chart because they suddenly stop hitting or throwing strikes.

    • DaveCT

      Its pretty extraordinary that a guy exploded on the scene, especially for a small market team without the promotional machine of a NYY or Red Sox,

  3. Shawn

    Baseball America has Him at 10 and prospects live has him at 5 in their midseason updates. He’s getting a lot of good reviews right now.

  4. Optimist

    Don’t know if this is a thing anymore, but is there still doubt about Dominican birthdates? IOW, is De La Cruz truly 19?

  5. Krozley

    I saw a new player on the ACL roster, 41 year old Reynaldo Cruz (seemingly different than pitcher Raynardo Cruz) who last played in the US in 2004. An error perhaps, or is this some sort of feel good story?

    Ibarra and Trautwein moved up to Daytona. I also noticed Guilliams was listed on the 60-day IL for the ACL team.

    • Doug Gray

      Gotta be an input error. Reynardo Cruz was promoted from the DSL to the ACL last week.

  6. donny

    Elly De La Cruz , for me the speed is fine and a plus, but it’s the power that has me excited . He’s only 19 years old and only 150 pounds with some exit velocity’s over 105 mph .
    I jumped on the band wagon when I said the guy was getting it done a month ago , but i was hoping we all stay a little quite about it , and not have the players , scouts and personnel get to excited about it and put to much pressure on the kid.

    ”I guess things just don’t work that way” .

      • Doug Gray

        I’ve never seen him play in person, so I’m only relying on second-hand information from professionals who have – but it’s kind of up in the air. How he fills out matters and that’s just not really known yet. There’s a chance he can stay there. There’s a chance he winds up at third or maybe in center.

  7. MK

    I just do not get the logic of uncertain strike zones. Since nearly a third of the games, plus, are called by what should be a consistent robo strike zone. Other leagues with human umpires everyday have an inconsistent strike zone every day. Say I would say Hendricks’ strike zone is more consistent than others

    • Gaffer

      I wonder if he’s trying to work the count to get “hitters counts” like 3-1 or 2-1. Then a little inconsistency in the zone matters, and can be frustrating which only makes it worse. That would not bother me for now as with time he will get a better eye. As long as he’s not swinging thru three straight pitches I don’t care if he has a bunch of Ks if it means he is learning “his” zone. I think for the next year or so we may be more interested in his ISO.

  8. donny

    McLain, going 4-5 with a home run, 2 runs scored and 5 rbi in his Dayton debut