When the 2022 season began the prospect on the tip of the tongue of everyone was Elly De La Cruz. He had come off of a breakout season in 2021 with the kind of ascension into the prospect realm unlike one we’ve seen in a long time. De La Cruz went from proverbial unknown and unranked in the Cincinnati Reds farm system to a Top 100 prospect with a superstar upside.
Cincinnati may have been aggressive with their promotion of Elly De La Cruz to begin the 2022 season. He had spent half of a season in the US, playing two weeks with the Arizona Complex League Reds where he hit .400 and compiled eleventy-billion extra-base hits (it was actually just 11 in 11 games) before heading to Low-A Daytona where he played in 50 more games and added another 24 extra-base hits.
While there was a lot to like from what De La Cruz did in Daytona in 2021 where he hit .269/.305/.477, that on-base percentage was lower than you’d like to see thanks to just 10 walks and 65 strikeouts in his 50 games played. Neither of those rates are ones you want to see. He was just 19-years-old, and he didn’t play in 2020 so things were a bit wonky for everyone in 2021 with regards to how you want to truly evaluate a player in that situation.
Still, Cincinnati thought he would be fine moving on up to High-A with the Dayton Dragons. In the first 15 games of the season he certainly showed that the power was going to work, but he hit just .241 with three walks and 22 strikeouts in 61 plate appearances while posting a .279 on-base percentage and slugging .483.
Since April 30th he’s played in 12 games and he’s turned things around in a big way. De La Cruz is making more contact, walking more, and the power is still showing up. In that stretch he’s hitting .319/.396/.596 with five walks and 13 strikeouts. The sample size for both stretches is small, but his walk rate has nearly doubled – going from 4.9% to 9.4% – and his strikeout rate went from 36.1% to 24.5%. Those latter numbers will really play well.
After a bit of a slow start, Elly De La Cruz is now hitting .276/.333/.533 with seven doubles, a triple, six home runs, and nine stolen bases. He’s the 10th youngest position player in the league, but 14th in the league in OPS.
Matt McLain’s weird splits
It’s been a strange month of May so far for Matt McLain. In April he had 12 extra-base hits, hitting six doubles, three triples, and three home runs in 19 games. In May he’s have seven extra-base hits in 13 games, but six of them have been home runs with the other being a double.
The distribution of extra-base hits is strange on it’s own. That his most recent homer from last night was an inside-the-park home run makes it a little more fun.
What's more exciting than a Matt McLain homer?
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 18, 2022
In other weird splits, though, are some that aren’t quite as fun. In April we saw McLain strike out 21 times in 78 plate appearances. That’s a 26.9% strikeout rate. In May it’s gotten a lot worse. In his 58 trips to the plate he’s struck out 22 times. That’s a 37.9% strikeout rate. Overall on the year he’s now struck out in 31.6% of his plate appearances.
What’s also been an interesting split is that he’s been crushing right-handed pitching to the tune of .264/.373/.632, but he’s struggled against lefties. He’s only had 34 plate appearances against them this season, but he’s hitting just .233/.294/.500 against them. The power has showed up, but he’s not finding hits against them so far.
Jose Barrero expected in Triple-A this week
Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Jose Barrero is expected to begin a rehab assignment with the Triple-A Louisville Bats on Friday. Barrero hasn’t played this year after having surgery to remove the hamate bone in his hand/wrist during spring training.
Aschraft, Motter to the taxi squad
The Cincinnati Reds announced on Wednesday afternoon that they have added Graham Ashcraft and Taylor Motter to the taxi squad. When writing about what Ashcraft has done this year over at Redleg Nation I realized just how stingy he had been. It’s one thing to have a 1.65 ERA through seven starts….. it’s an entirely different thing to have allowed one extra-base hit – a double – through seven starts.