Carlos De La Cruz
With Bryce Harper sometimes playing at first base and Kyle Schwarber shifting from left field to designated hitter more often, the Phillies have an opening in their outfield. Maybe.
Since being called up on July 14, center fielder Johan Rojas has hit .348 with four RBI across 10 games heading into Monday's contest. With more consistent playing time, Rojas can make the case that he can adequately provide the reliability the Phillies need in the outfield and at the plate from the right side.
However, if the Phillies don’t give Rojas the opportunity to prove he can handle that spot consistently, they might turn to another young batter.
MLB.com has Rojas ranked sixth among the team’s prospects, but Carlos De La Cruz isn’t far behind at eighth. The undrafted outfielder has spent all of the 2023 season at Double-A Reading, where he’s hitting .287 with a .359 on-base percentage and a .488 slugging percentage. In 92 games, he has 18 home runs and 49 RBI. He has struck out 108 times, though, and the Philadelphia squad as a whole was already sixth in the league in strikeouts with 696 on the year heading into Monday's slate of games.
He has shown flashes of consistency, though. Earlier this season, De La Cruz had a 38-game on-base streak from May 12 to June 25. During that time, he hit .297/.380/.497 with eight home runs, seven doubles, one triple, 24 RBI, 17 walks and 41 strikeouts. Over his last 10 games, the 6 foot 8, 210-pound outfielder is hitting .293/.356/.439 with three doubles, one home run, four RBI, four walks and 11 strikeouts.
In June, Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer spoke with Tyler Henson, hitting coach for the Double-A ballclub, who talked about De La Cruz needing to adjust the timing of his swing to account for this tall frame.
Henson said: “Early on in the year, we battled with getting him on time for the heater. He was driving breaking balls that were hung in the zone. But he’s gotten to a better spot where he’s getting better swings off on good velo heaters in the zone. That’s the main focus, keep him on time, allow that big frame to get to the barrel, and good things happen.”
While the trade market is burning with rumors about the Phillies bringing in an established major league player, with some more patience demonstrated at the plate, De La Cruz could bring his right-handed power bat to the lineup.