Elly De La Cruz burst onto the scene in 2023 and quickly became the most exciting young player in the game. The Cincinnati Reds rookie was a human-highlight film, and fans couldn't wait to see what happened next.
But after the All-Star Game, De La Cruz lost his luster. The strikeouts began to pile up, there were defensive miscues galore, and the rookie phenom was moved up and down the lineup; De La Cruz went from leadoff hitter to the bottom of the batting order in two months.
The biggest concern among the Reds fanbase, of course, is which version of De La Cruz will be on the field once the 2024 season begins? While the sophomore slump is a real thing, what if De La Cruz got that out of the way over the second-half of his rookie season?
Reds fans know all too well the reality of the sophomore slump
If you don't believe in the sophomore slump, then you haven't been watching the Cincinnati Reds over the past few seasons. There are several examples in recent years of Reds rookies enjoying tremendous success in their first year, only to fall flat during their second major league season.
Jonathan India won NL Rookie of the Year in 2021 while posting 4.1 WAR, according to Baseball Reference. India now finds himself linked to every trade rumor imaginable and produced just 1.1 WAR over the past two seasons combined.
On the pitching side of things, Hunter Greene looked like he was going to be the future of the ace of the Reds rotation after displaying a 100-plus mph fastball and racking up 164 punch outs during his rookie season in 2022.
But last year saw Greene spend over two months on the injured list with a hip issue. In addition, Greene's WHIP jumped from 1.210 to 1.420, and the right-hander allowed more hits and more runs in 2023 despite pitching in 13 fewer innings than the season before.
Is Elly De La Cruz's sophomore slump already behind him?
But maybe Elly De La Cruz got his sophomore slump out of the way during the second half of his rookie season. Before the All-Star break, De La Cruz hit .325/.363/.524 with a wRC+ of 133 according to FanGraphs.
But after the Midsummer Classic, De La Cruz's production dropped off the map. The rookie hit just .191/.271/.355 and posted a wRC+ of 62 after the All-Star Game. De La Cruz was responsible for just one error before the All-Star break. After July 9th, he registered 13 fielding miscues.
De La Cruz had already enjoyed outrageous success in Triple-A to begin his 2023 season. In 38 games with the Louisville Bats, De La Cruz hit .298/.398/.633 with 13 doubles, three triples, and 12 home runs.
If you combine De La Cruz's minor league performance with his pre-All-Star Game numbers, the budding, young infielder hit .309 with 41 extra-base hits, including 16 homers, 52 RBI, and 27 stolen bases in 68 games.
If that's the version of Elly De La Cruz that the Cincinnati faithful get to see during the 2024 season, then Reds fans are in for a treat. The sophomore slump has crippled some of the Reds best young players in recent years, but maybe De La Cruz has already put that behind him.