Phillies’ gamble on heavy-hitting outfield prospect paying off so far

The Phillies took a chance on Carlos De La Cruz after he went undrafted in 2017. Can they tap into his full potential?

Philadelphia Phillies prospect Carlos De La Cruz
Philadelphia Phillies prospect Carlos De La Cruz / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages
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Carlos De La Cruz graduated from high school in 2017 and went undrafted. The Philadelphia Phillies saw his size — 6-foot-8 — and power potential and took a chance on him. Since then, the 24-year-old has shown off his raw power but still has a long way to go before he becomes a more polished prospect.

De La Cruz can play each outfield position and first base. For his size, he can run and play decent defense at each of those positions. The most entertaining part of his game, however, comes on the offensive side of the ball.

The raw power that De La Cruz possesses is what makes him such an intriguing young player. In 2022, he hit 17 home runs at High-A Jersey Shore and Double-A Reading. That was the year that put the imposing prospect on the map. He slashed .271/.333/.482 with an .815 OPS that season. Last season, he mashed another 24 home runs and posted an OPS of .798.

Swing-and-miss is the biggest flaw in De La Cruz's game right now

When the powerful young player makes contact, he can simply crush the baseball. The major issue that De La Cruz has faced is his high strikeout numbers. He has the propensity to swing and miss frequently. In 102 games in 2022, De La Cruz struck out an eye-popping 120 times, a 27.8 percent strikeout rate.

Last season, the 24-year-old struck out 160 times in 129 games and 27.5 percent of the time. To put these numbers in perspective, the MLB average strikeout percentage in 2023 was 22.7 percent. The Phillies' No. 13 ranked prospect simply strikes out too much to be a polished major league hitter at this point.

There is good news, however. The 27.5 strikeout percentage was the lowest of De La Cruz's professional career. He also increased his walk rate from 4.9 percent in 2022 to 9.3 percent last season. The decrease in strikeouts and the increase in walks may suggest that De La Cruz is learning the strike zone better as he develops.

De La Cruz explains his approach at the plate

MLB.com's Todd Zolecki spoke to De La Cruz about his approach at the plate recently. The Phillies' prospect offered his thoughts when he steps into the box: “As long as I’m not chasing or looking for anything under my knees, I should be fine. I’m trying to keep everything belt-high and just trying to look for everything up there [in the strike zone]. That should give me a chance for the most part.”

De La Cruz's potential has earned him considerable appearances in big league spring training over the last two seasons. So far this spring, his numbers have not been super impressive. In 12 games, he has accumulated five hits and has struck out 10 times.

While the numbers this spring have not been what he would have hoped for, getting time in big league camp can offer immense value in terms of experience. He has a way to go before he begins to garner any consideration for a major league call-up, but his power potential, size, and raw skill set make him an interesting prospect in the Phillies' farm system.

Fans will have a chance to see him compete alongside other Phillies prospects in MLB's Spring Breakout when the Phillies take on the Detroit Tigers on March 16.

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