Keury De La Cruz And Shiny New Toys

Entering the 2012 season, Red Sox prospect Keury De La Cruz was a relative unknown after two years of modest production in short season baseball. At 20, De La Cruz burst onto the prospect scene by posting a .308/.352/.536 line in the South Atlantic League before earning a late season promotion. Is De La Cruz a legitimate prospect? Sure, but the amount of hype he has received due to coming out of nowhere is a phenomenon repeated every winter. The names change, but the excitement… and eventual let down… is the same.

Just last winter, fellow Red Sox Brandon Jacobs posted nearly identical numbers at the same age in Greenville. That success earned him multiple top-100 rankings highlighted by his being named the 46th best prospect on Baseball Prospectus’ top-101 prospects list. This isn’t to say Jacobs did not earn those lofty rankings. He did, and was one of my favorite bat first prospects in 2011. However, the hangover from his 2011 success was a nasty one as slightly above average production at the High-A level has caused his prospect stock to crater — Probably unfairly as he battled injuries in 2012.

As for De La Cruz, his production stands out, but seeing him in person raises a number of question marks about his all-around game. Without a doubt, he possesses at least an above average hit tool which one scout I spoke with projected it to peak at 65 on the 20/80 scale. For now, his best tool allows De La Cruz to achieve success in spite of fringe plate discipline and what may have been the most exaggerated upper cut swing seen this season.

With a bat head that doesn’t linger in the strike zone at all, De La Cruz has to have excellent hand-eye coordination to make consistent, barrel contact. What’s even more impressive is that his swing incorporates so much of his pull arm which is known for power, not bat control. I’ve never seen this style of hitting work for a prospect before De La Cruz. In most instances, my first reaction would be that the hitter needs a complete overhaul of his swing mechanics. In the case of De La Cruz, I’m not so sure.

Defensively, I have concerns with De La Cruz’ route running. He was a slightly below average left fielder in person. With his not being the prototypical left fielder in terms of power projection, defense may wind up being his Achilles heel as most atypical corner outfielders provide additional value with the glove to offset deficiencies in other areas. Of course route running may improve with reps and experience as 2012 was his first season playing left field, but his arm strength and glove are not good enough to project an above average-to-plus defensive outfielder regardless.

For the record, Brandon Jacobs was a better prospect than De La Cruz at the same stage of development. One could argue De La Cruz has the better hit tool and is a slightly better defender at 20, but Jacobs’ offensive ceiling was, and still is significantly higher.

And while prospect fans wonder, “What happened to Brandon Jacobs?” I’d argue the same thing that happens to so many prospects. With six months of no minor league baseball, the season ends and everybody starts to analyze the numbers and build prospects up to heights few actually match.

Evan Gattis crushed High-A ball at 25, so maybe he’s the Braves answer in left field.

Mariners Stefen Romero (who I like) is comped to Jose Vidro, a player with a career triple slash line of .298/.359/.445 because he raked in High-A and Double-A at 23.

…..And the list goes on

Questions about De La Cruz being the heir apparent in left field for the Red Sox have already begun like Brandon Jacobs doesn’t exist. This time next year, Williams Jerez may very well be the Red Sox next shiny new toy as De La Cruz’ prospect status fades to black. And while this is something I consider to be normal when it comes to the online world of prospecting, it’s still fascinating to see the recurring cycle unfold every winter.




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Mike Newman is the Owner/Managing Editor ofROTOscouting, a subscription site focused on baseball scouting, baseball prospects and fantasy baseball. Follow me onTwitter. Likeus on Facebook.Subscribeto my YouTube Channel.


18 Responses to “Keury De La Cruz And Shiny New Toys”

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  1. Joe says:

    Mike – another good writeup.

    I think with the increasing coverage of prospects and the greater availability of stats, people tend to get hung up on looking at #’s at low levels and using that to form a judgement on prospect status. Of course for folks not fortunate enough to be able to see these guys that is mostly what we can see, so detailed write-ups and video like you do is much appreciated.

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  2. Gus says:

    The Vidro comp rocks.

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  3. brian says:

    I was the guy who asked about De La Cruz potentially being a first division starter in the chat, this article is great. For the record I was skeptical before, since Reddick wasn’t viewed as first division starter material almost solely due to his plate discipline issues (often labeled Francouer Jr. in Boston).

    As far as Jacobs goes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a big bounce back year in 2013. He grew up football first, and football guys often have wacky development patterns…I’m sure it’s tough to make the necessary adjustments at the pro level without the usual amateur commitment time to baseball growing up. I saw him live once and his defense did look rough, but his batting practice display was real impressive. Like you said his game has serious holes too, so he’d have to come close to his ceiling offensively to play in Boston. Again, good stuff.

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    • Mike Newman says:

      Thank you for the piece idea. I always enjoy tying information about a player in as part of a larger theme.

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    • Jonathan says:

      With regards to Jacobs, a big missing detail (At least I didn’t notice it) to this article is that Jacobs was dealing with injury trouble this year. He had a problem with his hamate bone.

      It’s entirely possible that he was just a flash in the pan, but one has to consider that injury (Which I believe occurred in May) when analyzing his 2012 season.

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  4. richardj says:

    Another great write up. Watching his swing Ican see at least one positive–I doubt that he’ll hit into too many double plays…

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  5. gnomez says:

    For some reason, despite everything we know about swing mechanics, I really like that swing.

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  6. jim08 says:

    From the video this kid looks like he’s got a swing that is primed for a HR derby at Yankee Stadium

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  7. Conrad says:

    Mike, this is a good piece, and I agree with you that Brandon Jacobs was overhyped after his one good season. But if you’re going to ask “What happened to Brandon Jacobs?” then your answer should probably at least mention that he dealt with injury almost the entire season.

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    • Mike Newman says:

      Conrad,

      How closely did you read the piece? This is from the 2nd paragraph…

      “However, the hangover from his 2011 success was a nasty one as slightly above average production at the High-A level has caused his prospect stock to crater — Probably unfairly as he battled injuries in 2012.”

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  8. Paul says:

    I think what happened to Jacobs was that he’s just not very good. I know you liked his swing, but to me it was overly mechanical and it just didn’t look like he could adjust his swing plane in-out, up-down and be able to make contact at higher levels. Juxtapose this with de la Cruz, whose mechanics are not ideal. You can see just in this short vid that he can adjust his swing to wherever he’s pitched in the zone. This and the Vitters vids are probably the best you’ve put up at illustrating why the guy can succeed at the MLB level. Seeing de la Cruz go the other way on the outer half stuff, then turn like that on the inside pitches is impressive to me. Love this guy’s swing, bad mechanics or not.

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    • Mike Newman says:

      I disagree Paul. My Jacobs video is from early in the 2011 season. The Jacobs I saw that July was a much improved hitter who was learning how to make adjustments at a rapid pace. That’s what made him one of my favorites of that season. To you credit, if all I had to go on was my video, we would have made the same assessment.

      In 2012, I went for more BP video since in game swings are unpredictable. I’ve found it has been a big plus.

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      • Paul says:

        Ah, fair enough. Thanks for the explanation. I’ll be interested to see how he does in AA.

        And yes, the BP is good stuff. Some are more instructive than others, like this one, but it always adds something I didn’t know before. Also certainly better than relying on somebody saying anonymous scout X told him so-and-so is the next Mickey Mantle.

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  9. Mr Punch says:

    As to De La Cruz, I believe it remains true that the Red Sox have never signed and developed an international (amateur) free agent who became a significant contributor for them; Junichi Tazawa is about as good as it gets.

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    • Jonathan says:

      They could always sign Anibal Sanchez. He’d have to count considering they did develop him.

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    • Eric M. Van says:

      Roger Moret, Carlos Quintana, Jackie Gutierrez, and (cough) Felix Doubront. It’s not a great track record, but it’s not the empty set.

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