Reds' recent disasters left them without Elly De La Cruz backup plan

The Reds roster depth evapoated this spring.

Cincinnati Reds third baseman Elly De La Cruz (44) scores
Cincinnati Reds third baseman Elly De La Cruz (44) scores / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

For the past several years, Joey Votto was the most polarizing player on the Cincinnati Reds roster. With Votto no longer part of the Reds roster, that baton seems to have been passed to Elly De La Cruz.

A majority of Reds fans see the incredible potential that De La Cruz possesses, while others only focus on the high number of strikeouts and fielding mistakes that have plagued the 22-year-old since making his major league debut last summer.

But the Reds don't have much of a choice at the moment when it comes to how the team should handle De La Cruz's development. After losing Matt McLain to injury and Noelvi Marte to an 80-game suspension, the Cincinnati faithful will have to endure the growing pains.

Without Matt McLain & Noelvi Marte, the Reds have no choice but to endure Elly De La Cruz's growing pains

None of this is to suggest that De La Cruz should be optioned to Triple-A just five games into the 2024 season. That's flat-out foolish. De La Cruz already proved last season that he could crush Triple-A pitching. He hit .298/.398/.633 in 38 games for the Louisville Bats last season.

Even the Reds thought that tune-up down in Triple-A (a la Will Benson in 2023) would do De La Cruz some good, the roster depth that this team had heading into spring training has been completely turned on its head. McLain underwent shoulder surgery and is on the 60-day IL, while Marte was busted for PED use and won't be eligible to return until later this summer.

Heading into the season, if De La Cruz were to endure a rough patch or need a couple days off, Reds manager David Bell could've turned to McLain or Marte to take over at shortstop for a game or two. But that's not an option.

De La Cruz's backup at shortstop is Santiago Espinal. An All-Star in 2022, Espinal has just played just 48 games at shortstop. Espinal is worth 3 defensive runs saved according to Fielding Bible. But outside of spot start here and there, the Reds have no plans, nor should they, to supplant De La Cruz at shortstop with the former Toronto Blue Jays infielder. That trade acquisition was an insurance policy, plain and simple.

De La Cruz has unlimited potential, and worked extremely hard over the offseason to help fix some of the holes in his game. If he gets it right, and there's every reason to believe he will, the Reds' infielder could be one of the best players in the game.

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