What are realistic expectations for Reds top prospect Elly De La Cruz in 2023?

Elly De La Cruz Cincinnati Reds prospects
Elly De La Cruz Cincinnati Reds prospects / Kevork Djansezian/GettyImages

The Cincinnati Reds added shortstop prospect Elly De La Cruz to the team's 40-man roster earlier this week. So naturally, the focus of the fanbase will now shift to De La Cruz's major league debut.

Not since Jay Bruce was a prospect in the Reds farm system has there been this much hype surrounding a prospect. Many experts and fans alike feel as though De La Cruz could be best player on Cincinnati's team the moment he steps onto the grass at Great American Ball Park.

But Reds fans know all too well that sometimes the hype does not match the production. Nick Senzel and Robert Stephenson are perfect examples of two highly-touted prospects who've done little to nothing since arriving in the big leagues. So what should the Cincinnati faithful expect from De La Cruz in 2023?

What are realistic expectations for Reds prospect Elly De La Cruz in 2023?

Let's get this out of the way first - do not expect Elly De La Cruz to be on the 2023 Cincinnati Reds Opening Day roster. General manager Nick Krall has said time and time again that the plan is to bring De La Cruz along slowly. While the 20-year-old may eventually force the club to call him up to the big leagues sooner than expected, don't expect that to be on March 30th against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Now, the argument could be made that De La Cruz should start the 2023 season at Triple-A Louisville. After all, the infielder was virtually unstoppable in High-A Dayton last season and carried that high-level of play to his next stop in Double-A Chattanooga.

But don't forget that De La Cruz played fewer than 50 games for the Chattanooga Lookouts last season, and posted a strikeout-rate of nearly 31.0%. While his slugging percentage of .553 and wRC+ of 134 were quite impressive, De La Cruz posted better numbers than that in his 73 game with the Dayton Dragons.

Fans should not be surprised if Elly De La Cruz begins his 2023 back in southeastern Tennessee. If after a month or so he's proven that he's ready for the next step, it's conceivable that De La Cruz could make the leap to Triple-A by sometime next May. After that, all bets are off.

The Cincinnati Reds will likely still be evaluating how they plan to proceed with Jose Barrero. Did the shortstop learn from his shortcomings in 2022, or will Barrero stubbornly continue to hack away at balls that are several inches outside the strike zone?

There's also Matt McLain. How do the Reds view him heading into the 2023 season? Will the club look to McLain to play second base? The outfield? Or, will the former first-round pick remain at shortstop?

How the Cincinnati Reds plan to handle the likes of Jose Barrero and Matt McLain will definitely impact when the franchise decides to elevate Elly De La Cruz to the major leagues. But if the Reds top prospect continues to play the way he has for the past two seasons, he'll be in the big leagues sometime late next season.

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