While are only a handful of roster spots are up for grabs this spring training, that does not mean the Philadelphia Phillies are shying away from playing some of their prospects early in spring training. Among them is first baseman/outfielder Carlos De La Cruz, who has already impressed with his bat and glove in Grapefruit League action.
De La Cruz is getting noticed not just among Phillies circles, but throughout Major League Baseball. That is why — as part of MLB.com's recently released 2023 Top 30 prospect rankings for the organization — the New York native went from being unranked the previous season all the way up to No. 9.
De La Cruz has primarily been an outfielder ever since his professional career began with the GCL Phillies East as an 18-year-old in 2018. However, the organization began giving De La Cruz significant time at first base last season, receiving 205 2/3 innings at the position, in which he committed just four errors spanning 181 chances. De La Cruz also manned first base in the Arizona Fall League, committing just a pair of errors across 73 chances and 75 innings.
This is worth keeping an eye on, considering slugging first baseman Rhys Hoskins is on a contract year. So far this spring training, the right-handed-hitting De La Cruz is showing glimpses of his own power, including slugging a mammoth solo home run opposite the New York Yankees on Saturday.
Combined in 102 games last season between the Jersey Shore BlueClaws and Reading Fightin Phils, the 6-foot-8 De La Cruz hit 17 home runs and 47 RBI, while slashing .271/.333/.482. Only 23 years old, the Phillies could have a prospect lingering in the minor leagues that could contribute at the big-league level in the not-too-distant future.
While De La Cruz experienced the biggest climb on the Phillies' Top 30 prospects list, Hans Crouse — a pitching prospect acquired from the Texas Rangers as part of the Spencer Howard trade — took the biggest fall, going from sixth to 25th. Crouse was held to only a handful of appearances last season due to biceps tendinitis.
As expected, right-handers Andrew Painter and Mick Abel top the list. At just 19 years old, Painter is competing this spring for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Coming off of their unexpected World Series appearance — and with a farm system that seems to get deeper and deeper with potential under new leadership in the organization — the future is surely bright for the Phillies.