With only a handful of players currently in fall or winter ball it seems like talking about very specific players could get repetitive, but sometimes a guy just keeps doing things worth talking about. Elly De La Cruz has been on fire in the Dominican Winter League. He won the MVP for the week award during the first week of the season. Last night the 20-year-old put himself on a rather short list when he hit a long home run for Licey.

Licey plays their home games at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal. The park was built in 1955 and since the beginning the center field wall has been 411 feet from home plate and twice as high as the rest of the walls in the ballpark. As you can imagine there haven’t been a lot of home runs hit to dead center here.

On Monday night Elly De La Cruz cleared the wall in the 1st inning to put Licey up 1-0. Shortly after they began to talk about how big of a deal that actually was – retrieving the baseball in the process. De La Cruz is only the 12th player to ever homer over the wall in a game. Former Cincinnati Red Juan Francisco is the only player to ever do it more than once (he’s done so three times).

The first player to ever do it was Dick Stuart, who did so back in 1957. Stuart went on to hit 228 home runs in the big leagues between 1958 and 1969, including 42 of them in 1963 where he also led the league with 118 RBI for the Red Sox. The list has more than a few recognizable names on it.

Player “411 HR” MLB Career
Dick Stuart 1957 10 years
Alonzo Perry 1958 3 years
Frank Howard 1960 16 years
Bernardo Brito 1990 3 years
Raul Mondesí 1995 13 years
Israel Alcántara 2001 3 years
Henry Mercedes 2001 5 years
Henry Rodríguez 2004 11 years
Félix José 2005 11 years
Juan Francisco 2010, 2013, 2014 6 years
Seuly Matías 2020 0
Elly De La Cruz 2022 0

Just in case you happen to fact check this list I will note that on other lists there’s another guy on it. Back in 1985 Juan Luis Baro also homered over the wall during an international tournament. That home run doesn’t seem to be accounted for on the official lists, though, because the tournament was played with aluminum bats and the home run was hit with one. Baro played professionally in Cuba from 1985-1997.

As for Elly De La Cruz – it was just another big day for him as he went 2-4 with a double to go along with his long home run. Through nine games he’s hitting .406/.459/.688 with four doubles, a triple, a home run, four walks, and three steals. He’s 2nd in the league in average, 4th in on-base percentage, 3rd in slugging percentage, 2nd in stolen bases, and 3rd in OPS.

That’s not all….

Licey seems to have a stranglehold on all of the Cincinnati Reds players that are currently in the Dominican Winter League. Michael De Leon, who split his time between Chattanooga (32 games) and Louisville (64 games) this season hasn’t played much for Licey so far. He entered the game on Monday night 1-3, playing in four games. But he got the start at second base in the game and took full advantage, going 3-3 with two doubles, a home run, two runs scored, and he drove in three runs.

25 Responses

  1. Melvin

    He may be in the majors sooner than we think. If he’s on fire in ST will the Reds play games with his service time like Senzel? I know it won’t matter much in terms of winning next year but it’s possible he could be the best all around (5 tool) player there already. If so I’d like to see him ASAP but I doubt the Reds will do that.

    • Kerrick

      31% K rate. He needs to start in Louisville. Maybe even Chattanooga

      • Patrick

        The high K rate really worries me since I cannot find players that have had over 30% K rate in the minors and have then gone on to be good MLB hitters.

      • Doug Gray

        There does need to be some context here…. how many 20-year-olds who played in High-A and Double-A (or higher) were in the sample size you looked at? And of that group, how many missed an entire minor league season prior to that? That’s kind of one of the problems with trying to parse this information – because of 2020, and also because of just how young EDLC is compared to the levels he’s played at, it makes it tough to find too many comparable players in general, much less ones that you can find comparable stats to.

        I’d like to see the strikeout rate come down. But if he can maintain a 30% strikeout rate in the big leagues (and I do think it’s fair to ask if he can/will, but also believe there’s a better chance he lowers it than that it rises in the long run) then he’s got all of the right skills to be a very valuable player.

      • LDS

        Well, there’s always Mike Schmidt, who SO 145 times in 436 ABs (531 PAs, he walked a lot) or 33.2% (27.3% on PAs, the normal way to calculate SO %) of the time. His first MLB season, he struck out 37.5% of the time and 30%+ his second. His career SO average was 18.7%. One can argue the game has changed, that Schmidt was a black swan, etc. but high SO rates in the minors doesn’t necessarily mean the player won’t make it in the majors or that he’s not ready.

  2. mac624

    IDK what those commentators are saying but I absolutely share their excitement of EDLC regardless of the language spoken. What a prospect!

  3. SultanofSwaff

    Oneil Cruz is a good comp imo. His K rate this year is 34.7% with a 0.218 ISO……yet he was still good for 2.3 WAR in 87 games. Elly has a minors OPS 86 points higher and is reaching the upper minors 2 years sooner.

    I think the Reds are sitting on a 3+ win player RIGHT NOW. Even if the bat isn’t elite at first, the baserunning and defensive value would more that offset it. If he hits anything like he’s doing in the minors, you have a perennial all-star. If I’m in charge, he breaks camp with the team and I probably stash him in CF…..if only for the fact that Barrero absolutely deserves a longer look at SS given his proven track record of hitting in the minors and his defensive prowess. EDLC won’t forget how to play SS in the meantime and the versatility only helps the team. If Barrero doesn’t hit, then you move EDLC back to short.

    • Old Big Ed

      The amazing thing is that Oneil Cruz is more than 3 years older than Elly.

      I suspect that to the naked eye, Elly will easily be the best player in camp in spring training. He is the fastest guy in the organization, and he hits the ball harder than anybody else.

      He does likely need 2 months or so in AAA, the ultimate slider league, but there will be some pressure to bring him up to start the season. He is very close to MLB-ready against RH pitching, but needs some polish while hitting right-handed.

      They aren’t going to have trouble finding a hitting coach to work with him.

  4. Optimist

    It is beginning to look a little like the Kris Bryant situation, though Bryant was much more ready for the immediate callup. EDLC still has some issues, notable the K%, and they could mess around with defensive positioning. All that said, if he starts in AAA, and continues at this pace, even with 30% K rate, call him up at SS and let Barrero go back to AAA for a bit.

    • Tom

      Trade / Cut Farmer (6 mil)
      Start year with Barrero
      Call up EDLC in June if Barrero falters and EDLC is ready*
      * It’s possible that the inverse happens**
      **or that both are doing well (success!).

    • Doc

      Put the better of the two at SS to start the season. Barrero does not deserve to be designated as the SS to beat out. His AAA record does not eclipse that of EDLC, and he went backwards in 2022.

  5. MK

    Let’s not forget this is a business and this particular entity needs some excitement to sell some tickets. They need the money now to still be viable in seven years. So I see Elly starting at shortstop opening day 2023. I think it says a lot that Barrero is not playing Winter Ball any where to try to improve his skills.

    • Doug Gray

      I wouldn’t be entirely shocked if he made the opening day roster, but I don’t think it’ll be because the owners pressure “ticket sales are needed”.

      • Jim t

        Agree Doug. This isn’t about ticket sales at this point. It’s about team control and the perceived competitive window they are building towards. I don’t think that is 2023.

        Ownership is cheap and disappointing but a blind man can see this is a total rebuild that will take shape after Votto and Moose are off the books. It will be interesting to see if they have the brains and willingness to invest to build a contender around TS, India, ELDC, Greene, Lodolo, Diaz and Ashcroft after shedding those contracts.

    • Stock

      Future draft picks could be huge. I hope the Reds keep him in the minors until September or if they realize that is not possible then he breaks camp with the Reds. Plate discipline is the key here. It is a given that if he makes contact it will be hit hard.

    • Greenfield Red

      Do we know what Barrero is doing this winter? If he is working with credible hitting coach, watching film of himself and others who are successful, it could be more beneficial than winter ball.

      If he is not doing something that is expected to significantly improve his pitch recognition, than all bets on him are off in my opinion. He’s approaching his mid 20s. Now is the time if he is going to be the all-star player the Reds, and we as fans, thought he would be. Otherwise, he will likely be beaten out by all kinds of guys and be just another failed high end prospect littering the side of the road to stardom.

      • Tom

        He might need some physical therapy still. Wrists are funny and for all of his supporters it’s the wrist that needs to come around before the final assessment can be made. As someone who is sure he is not a .400 OPS bat no matter the plate discipline issues, I’m not worried about him getting reps, I’m worried that he’s 101% healthy before he approaches the game again.

  6. Michael B. Green

    De La Cruz should get quite a few PA’s in Spring Training this coming season. His plate discipline will decide how ready he is for AA, AAA or CIN. If you look at CIN’s roster, De La Cruz and a healthy Stephenson are the kind of players that could fit as “buy now – buy early” extensions for CIN. De La Cruz would need to shine for a few months at the big league level to warrant such consideration however.

    Interested to see the scouting report on Marte at the Arizona Fall League. He could serve as a major piece for the next CIN contending team. Yep. I said it. A contending team. I know. I joke, I joke. I kid, I kid.

  7. Old Big Ed

    Elly is living in elite company with the famous Dr. Strangeglove, Dick Stuart. The good Doctor topped out at 42 homers for the Red Sox in 1963.

    And Frank Howard is a total legend. The size of Aaron Judge, he was an excellent hitter. He twice led the AL in home runs, and he had an OPS+ of more than 170 from 1968-1970. Alas, Hondo could have been called Dr. Strangeglove or Mr. NoRange himself, with a career dWAR (Baseball Reference) of an astounding -24.1; Dr. Strangeglove himself only had -12.4 in 10 years. Plus, in a 16-year career, Hondo swiped 8 bases in 17 attempts.