Cincinnati Reds rookie Elly De La Cruz is amazing, and we’re big fans of his around The Big Lead’s offices. He’s fun, he’s exciting, he can do everything on a baseball field and he’ll be a star for years to come. But while he started his career on absolute fire, over the past month his numbers have plummeted. It appears De La Cruz has finally hit the rookie wall.
After facing the Atlanta Braves on June 23, De La Cruz was hitting .361 with a .418 on-base percentage, while slugging .656. His OPS was an eye-popping 1.074. He has struggled mightily since, and the Reds are 11-11 in that time.
In the 22 games since June 24, De La Cruz is hitting .226, with a .255 on-base percentage, while slugging .301, and has posted an OPS of .556. In 93 at-bats during that stretch he has 21 hits, four doubles, one home run, six RBI and 32 strikeouts. He does have 10 stolen bases since then, making him a real threat when he does reach base. But he actually has a negative WPA (win probability added) in that time at -0.76. His wRC+ has dropped to 99 for the season –100 is league average. That means he’s officially a below average MLB hitter right now. In fact, since June 25, his wRC+ has been a woeful 38.
That’s the bad news. Here’s where I temper it. De La Cruz is a phenomenal talent and this kind of thing happens to almost every rookie. The league figures guys out, finds the holes in their swings and attacks their flaws. Now it’s on him to counter it by making adjustments. There’s almost zero chance he doesn’t respond and stabilize things.
The issue here isn’t De La Cruz’s long-term prognosis, it’s what his struggles might mean for the Reds. They’re slumping right along with their rookie phenom. They’ve fallen out of first place in the NL Central and now trail the Milwaukee Brewers by 2.5 games. They’re also one back of the final Wild Card spot. So as it stands today, they would miss the playoffs.
If De La Cruz can turn things around quickly, so can the Reds. If he can’t? They might have to wait until next year.