Cincinnati Reds infielder Elly de la Cruz began this season as one of the most tantalizing prospects in all of baseball, a 6’5 shortstop capable of smoking a 118-mph double one half-inning and then uncorking a 100-mph throw to first the next. That buzz only grew as the 21-year-old laid waste to Triple-A, slashing .298/.398/.633 with 12 homers and 11 steals in just 38 games (and seemingly adding to his highlight reel every other day).
Eventually, Cincy decided they couldn’t hold MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 overall prospect down any longer, calling de la Cruz up to make his Major League debut at home on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers — and he wasted no time looking like the star we were promised. Batting cleanup and starting at third base, he worked a walk in his first career at-bat, a very promising sign considering that strikeouts and over-aggressiveness at the plate were among the only red flags in his profile. But that was nothing compared to his next time up, when he laced a Tony Gonsolin fastball into the right-center gap for a double — with an exit velocity of 112 mph.
A 112-mph double for Elly De La Cruz's first big league hit! pic.twitter.com/jOMrfgAFSF— MLB (@MLB) June 7, 2023
For context, that immediately became the hardest-hit ball by any Reds hitter this season. He was also clocked with a sprint speed of 30.4 feet per second, a number that would rank fourth in all of baseball behind only Bobby Witt Jr., Bubba Thompson and Trea Turner.
De la Cruz would finish his night 1-for-3 with two walks and a run scored, and even his outs were loud — his groundout in the bottom of the sixth had an exit velocity of 108.7 mph, the second-hardest hit ball of the night for either team. But while the night belonged to de la Cruz, it was another highly-touted Reds rookie who would play the hero: Shortstop Matt McLain continued his sizzling start with a walk-off single in the ninth inning to give the Reds a dramatic, 9-8 win. It was the type of crowd and the type of night that we haven’t seen in Cincinnati for a while, but if de la Cruz’s debut — plus McLain’s heroics, along with Andrew Abbott’s strong debut on Monday — is any indication, this team is positioned to make a lot more noise for years to come.