Elly De La Cruz is taking over the No. 1 spot in our weekly-updated RotoProspects Top 500 Prospect Rankings with the graduation of Corbin Carroll and Gunnar Henderson, who held the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively, since last summer.
The Reds’ 21-year-old switch-hitting shortstop is on the IL in Triple-A with a hamstring strain, but he is expected back on the field next week and should make his debut with Louisville by the end of April.
De La Cruz has the loudest tools and is the most exciting player in the minors, bar none. Listed at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, De La Cruz has filled out since signing for just $65,000 as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2018 by growing three inches and 40 pounds.
Very rare is the prospect with three 70-grades for his plus-plus raw power, speed and throwing arm. As a tall shortstop with tools for days, De La Cruz has drawn comparisons to the Pirates’ Oneil Cruz. De La Cruz, however, has been much more productive as he’s torn through the minors.
Last season, De La Cruz combined for 28 homers and 47 steals while batting .304 with a .945 OPS between Double- and Triple-A. He started out 2021 playing 11 games and batting .400 in the Arizona Complex League before putting up a .782 OPS in 50 games in Low-A to finish the season.
If he can reach the majors by this summer, De La Cruz will have taken under two calendar years to go from rookie ball to the majors.
The only thing holding Elly back at this point is that he needs to cut down on his strikeouts, as he had a 30.7 K% in Double-A and a 30.9 K% in Triple-A last year.
His character and work ethic have drawn nearly as many raves as his tools, so don’t put it past him to improve on his 40-grade hit tool.
De La Cruz has Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark waiting to help boost his stats once he arrives with the Reds. Playing half his games in the easiest park to homer in and the second-best for scoring runs has us dreaming of a future 40-40 season.
Elly may not be the safest prospect in our top 10, but he definitely has the highest ceiling. And since this is fantasy baseball we’re talking about, De La Cruz’s off-the-charts power-speed combo make him our top choice in dynasty leagues.