Here at The Good Phight, we’re a little different. Instead of making top ten prospects lists, we’ll be talking about some of the players in the minors that can help the team more immediately in 2024. We’re borrowing from a lot of public information about prospects to give an overview of how the players might fit into the team’s 2024 plans, be it at the beginning of the season or a random Tuesday in July.
Carlos de la Cruz is large.
A 6’8” listing for his height reinforces that and if you have ever seen him in person, that might feel a touch on the short side. It’s the type of height that you notice right away on a baseball field and the type of height that leads you to dream. There is enough weight on his frame that you can feel the power radiating off of it.
As he’s climbed the minor league ladder, it’s this size that has always been his biggest obstacle. With that big height comes long limbs. The long legs can help him run down baseballs in the outfield, but the long arms are the things that can get in his way. If ever you’ve been around a person with this kind of height, you know that whatever that person is doing with their arms, it takes a long time for those arms to get a goin’. If those arms are required to swing a baseball bat at baseballs traveling in excess of 92 miles per hour, it can be problematic. In his writeup about de la Cruz, Matt Winkelman noted this obstacle:
His size also leaves him struggling at times with fastballs, just because his arms are so long making his swing on the long side. His length does mean he excels at just reaching down and golfing breaking balls out. Like many long armed hitters, he also looks to and excels at hitting balls on the outer half of the zone.
Any writeup you find about de la Cruz during this prospect list season, the warts that have infested his game have been the issue many point to as what will keep him from having sustained success in the major leagues.
From Winkelman again:
The real key will be the contact and if he can make enough of it in the zone. The Phillies have worked on getting him better vs fastballs, and he has been walking more and bringing his strikeouts down at every level.
He can break down against offspeed, and there are going to be holes in his swing despite his best efforts, there’s just too much strike zone for him to cover. de la Cruz can appear awkward and gangly at the plate, but boy it’s hard contact and he does have respectable hand-eye for his size. When he squares one, it’s a laser show with easy 70-grade raw power. The ultimate question is how much of it will he get into games.
De La Cruz has plus-plus power and hit 24 bombs at Reading in 2023, but there are virtually no precedent-setting outfielders who chase and whiff as much as he does. He’s 24.
It’s the swing and miss, baby.
de la Cruz has to be able to make enough contact in order to help out any team he is on, be it the Phillies or another team as part of a trade. If he’s not making enough contact, what exactly has him stand out as a right-handed hitting outfielder?
How can he help the Phillies in 2024?
As it stands right now, upper level hitting depth is not exactly plentiful. de la Cruz can play the corner outfield spots and first base, but he’s likely only coming to Philadelphia in case of injury.
Even then, there are multiple options the team would likely explore before calling on de la Cruz to help them.
- if Bryce Harper gets injured: move Alec Bohm to 1B, play Edmundo Sosa at 3B, call up Kody Clemens or Weston Wilson
- if a corner outfielder gets injured: call up Johan Rojas (if he’s in the minors) or Weston Wilson, maybe even Simon Muzziotti if a LHH is needed
The worst thing for de la Cruz is that he isn’t on the 40-man roster currently. He’s made it through the Rule 5 draft twice now and hasn’t been taken, meaning teams are exactly enamored with what his skillset is. If he were to get a call up from the minors, someone would have to lose their spot on the 40-man, which could mean major injury or losing someone deemed “fungible” in terms of roster depth.
To put it all in a very succinct way, something rather catastrophic has to happen to the Phillies for Carlos de la Cruz to see extensive playing time in Philadelphia.
Which is a shame as I’d personally like to see him launching balls off of the scoreboard.