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Elly De La Cruz becomes Reds’ first No. 1 overall prospect in more than a decade

Cincinnati Reds prospect Elly De La Cruz hits the ball as hard as anyone in baseball, is one of the fastest runners and has one of the best arms from shortstop.

His latest feat? Claiming the title of No. 1 overall prospect.

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De La Cruz was named ESPN’s top prospect this week by their MLB insider Kiley McDaniel. The 6-foot-6 switch-hitting shortstop is rated as the No. 3 prospect by Baseball America, No. 4 prospect by and No. 5 by FanGraphs.

Elly De La Cruz, a consensus top-five prospect in the sport, was ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect by ESPN this week.

In 28 games at Triple-A Louisville, entering Thursday, the 21-year-old De La Cruz is batting .282 with seven homers, nine doubles, 26 RBI and 24 runs. He’s posted a .375 on-base percentage with 17 walks to 38 strikeouts, adding nine stolen bases in 14 attempts.

“He’s playing well, continuing to develop,” Reds Manager David Bell said. “That’s not a surprise. We know a lot about Elly. He’s right on track with everything he’s doing. He’s getting better. He’s making progress at the plate. He’s playing shortstop every day now since Matt (McLain’s) been here. He’s doing everything he needs to be doing right now.”

Entering the season, the biggest question mark surrounding De La Cruz was his plate discipline. He struck out in 31% of his plate appearances throughout each minor league level, a strikeout rate on par at the MLB level with guys like Eugenio Suárez. At Triple-A, to this point, De La Cruz has slightly lowered his strikeout rate (28%) while nearly doubling his walk rate (12.5%).

Elly De La Cruz was hitting .282 in his first 28 games at Triple-A with seven homers, nine doubles and 26 RBI.

Elly De La Cruz was hitting .282 in his first 28 games at Triple-A with seven homers, nine doubles and 26 RBI.

De La Cruz missed the first few weeks of the season recovering from a hamstring injury, but he’s been dominant throughout May. In 19 games this month, he’s hitting .329 with a .441 on-base percentage while recording nearly as many walks (15) as strikeouts (20).

The Reds called up McLain as their everyday shortstop earlier this month, and De La Cruz is now playing exclusively at shortstop at Triple-A, although he does have experience at third base. A promotion to the majors does not appear imminent for De La Cruz, but he could accelerate his timetable if he continues to show improved plate discipline.

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“It’s good that he’s played some other positions,” Bell said. “Just letting him settle at one position and letting him focus there was part of that plan for Elly. He’s in that process right now.”

De La Cruz is the Reds’ first No. 1 overall prospect since Jay Bruce in 2008. Nick Senzel, when he was promoted in 2019, was a consensus top-10 prospect and rated in the top five in some publications.

Along with De La Cruz, ESPN rated McLain as its No. 19 prospect and third baseman Noelvi Marte (Double-A Chattanooga) at No. 48.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Reds’ Elly De La Cruz ranked No. 1 prospect by ESPN

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