Slow start dooms Elly De La Cruz's quest to earn Reds Opening Day roster spot

Cincinnati Reds infielder Elly De La Cruz
Cincinnati Reds infielder Elly De La Cruz / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

It was always a long shot that top prospect Elly De La Cruz would sneak his way onto the Cincinnati Reds 2023 Opening Day roster. But the 21-year-old's slow start during Cactus League has all but doomed any chance of De La Cruz breaking camp with the big league club.

De La Cruz has seen the field early and often in 2023. However, the production has not been there. De La Cruz went 0-for-2 in Friday's contest against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch and is now 0-for-9 this spring.

This is in no way meant to disparage De La Cruz or cast aspersions on the Reds top prospect. The fact of the matter is, outside of five at-bats last spring, this is De La Cruz's first real experience in big league camp.

Slow start dooms Elly De La Cruz's quest to earn Reds Opening Day roster spot.

Elly De La Cruz would have to put on a clinic over the next few weeks in order to land a spot on the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day roster. Even then, that might not be enough. The Reds plan all along has been to bring along De La Cruz slowly.

A lot of Reds fans are tired of waiting. Reds Country heard whispers about a 19-year-old phenom in 2021, and last season, De La Cruz burst onto the main stage with an outstanding performance in Cincinnati's minor league system. De La Cruz slashed .304/.359/.586 with 28 home runs and 86 RBIs.

However, that was against both High-A and Double-A pitching. De La Cruz has played fewer than 50 games above A-Ball, and while the talent is clearly there, the shortstop also has holes in his game.

One of the biggest is De La Cruz's 30-plus percent strikeout-rate. While that .945 OPS looks pretty nice, it takes a bit of a hit when stacked up next to 158 strikeouts.

The Cincinnati Reds have both Jose Barrero and Kevin Newman battling it out for the right to be called the Opening Day starter at shortstop. Barrero is 1-for-6 with three strikeouts this spring while Newman is 0-for-6 with a walk.

While it's true that none of the Reds shortstops are lighting the world on fire during spring training, patience will be key with Elly De La Cruz. The Cincinnati faithful will undoubtedly see the team's top prospect make his major league debut in 2023, but it won't be on Opening Day.

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