Elly De La Cruz: MLB’s New #1 Prospect

Future Reds infielder Elly De La Cruz
Photo Credit: / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

Reds fans rejoice! The Reds are #1 in something positive for a change. Elly De La Cruz was named the number one prospect in baseball according to ESPN MLB Insider Kiley McDaniel. The current Louisville Bat is terrorizing AAA with a slash line of .282/.375/.590 and an OPS of .965. Not only is he mashing at the plate he has a rocket arm at shortstop, throwing the fastest infield throw (99.2 MPH) in all levels of baseball in the 2023 season.

Did I mention he can hit for power and run like the wind? De La Cruz can stretch an average single into a double and hit homeruns 512ft. I feel like I am in the scene of Friday Night Lights where Boobie Miles’s uncle is hyping him up to scouts during practice.

When Does Elly De La Cruz Make His Debut?

De La Cruz, barring no setbacks, should make his MLB debut in 2023. The question on everybody’s mind is “When?” Well let me add my speculation to the pot and say I could see him coming up mid-to-late August. I only say this because I would like to see De La Cruz maintain his rookie status for 2024, as should the Reds.

This would be a win-win situation because the Reds would have an extra year of control, and De La Cruz would get to see MLB action in 2023, while still being able to compete for rookie awards in 2024.

Elly De La Cruz will be one of those guys that the MLB draws from for growing the game. He could be the next Fernando Tatis Jr. where every little kid wants to be him, and older fans hate him. Let’s just hope Tatis’ off the field actions don’t find their way into De La Cruz career.

2023 MLB Season Week 1: Biggest Under and Overreactions

The MLB season has kicked off and we are one week in. It is nearly impossible to predict how the season will go after watching just one week’s worth of games, but I will give opinions on what I see. I will look at each division and provide a few takeaways and predictions for what we may see come October. I fully expect to look back at this article in October and ask myself “What was I thinking?” I have listed the divisions with teams in order of their place within that respected division. Now, let’s get into some overreactions and underreactions for the 2023 MLB season so far!

2023 MLB Season Overreactions: American League

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AL East: (Rays, Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles, Red Sox)

Biggest Overreaction: “This division runs through the Bronx,” which we hear year in and year out. The Rays have started white hot with a 6-0 record and the largest run differential in all of baseball at +31. They are getting it done at the plate and on the mound. If the Rays can maintain their composure when they hit the wall that every team does, they should be seeing the Yankees in their rearview come October.

Biggest Underreaction: The Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles have the #1 farm system heading into the 2023 season, which they have already benefited from. They had their top prospect Grayson Rodriguez make his first start on Wednesday against the Rangers. He went 5 innings with 5 K’s, 2 ER’s, and 4 hits. Along with all their other upcoming talents, the city is full of hope to see the Orioles at the top of the division within the next 1-2 seasons.

AL Central: (Guardians, Twins, White Sox, Tigers, Royals)

Biggest Overreaction: There are few things to have overreactions about in this division so far in the 2023 MLB season. I don’t see much changing in the current standings when the season is over.

Biggest Underreaction: The Guardians and Twins are both strong, veteran teams. I would not be surprised to see both teams with 88+ wins and making deep runs in the playoffs. Dare I say the Guardians have what it takes to make it to the World Series?

AL West: (Rangers, Angels, Astros, A’s, Mariners)

Biggest Overreaction: “Jacob DeGrom will lead the Rangers to their first division title since 2016.” I am weary to think that DeGrom will stay healthy since he hasn’t pitched 100+ innings in a season since 2019. I hope DeGrom can pitch 200+ innings this year, because watching him pitch is amazing as a baseball fan.

Biggest Underreaction: Luis Castillo and the Seattle Mariners. As a Reds fan, watching Luis Castillo has been the one bright spot in my fandom. Seeing him dominating in Seattle is no shock to me. The Mariners have been building momentum, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them making noise in the playoffs this season.

I can’t talk about the AL West and not bring up Shohei Ohtani. I don’t expect to see him in an Angels uniform after 2023. More than likely he will be in Dodger Blue or Yankee Pinstripes.

2023 MLB Season Overreactions: National League

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NL East: (Braves, Mets, Marlins, Phillies, Nationals)

Biggest Overreaction: “The Mets will win the division with ease.” While trying to buy their way to a championship with a hefty free agent bill around $500 million, it doesn’t guarantee anything. We rarely see teams succeed in baseball when they try to buy a team of superstars, and I don’t see this going differently. With a 3-4 record and being swept by the Brewers, things don’t look great.

Biggest Underreaction: The Braves are still dominant. Who doesn’t love watching Ronald Acuña Jr. play baseball? The Braves are just fundamentally sound with a veteran team and look to winning their second World Series in three seasons.

NL Central: (Brewers, Pirates, Reds, Cubs, Cardinals)

Biggest Overreaction: “The Pirates and Reds are good.” Check back with me in August, when these two teams are fighting for 4th place in the division. I see them both showing an improvement from last year, but give these teams about two more years and we will see them both fighting for 1st place. Both have top 10 farm systems. Once they develop or trade for veterans, both fan bases will have something to root for.

Biggest Underreaction: The Cardinals will win the division for the second season in a row. With a star-studded infield anchored by Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, they will have no issues scoring. They have something to prove after losing early in the playoffs to the Phillies.

NL West: (Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks, Giants, Rockies)

Biggest Overreaction: “Money will solve all problems in the Golden State.” With San Diego currently wheeling and dealing for the best lineup money can buy, it has not amounted to much besides a huge upcoming tax bill. The Dodgers will be okay because they still have a top-five farm system, but they are starting to feel the hangover of all their spending.

Biggest Underreaction: The Diamondbacks will make things interesting with a star-studded, third-ranked farm system and a Rookie of the Year front runner Corbin Carroll. I see them finishing third in the division, but fighting for second. Give the Diamondbacks another season or two, and it could feel like 2001 all over for them.

The Oakland Athletics Are Bad For Baseball

From 2018-2020, the Oakland Athletics were a genuinely good team. After making the playoffs all three seasons and even winning the division in the shortened 2020 season, the future seemed bright.  

The roster had legitimate stars. Matt Olson quickly became one of the best first basemen in the league while Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman filled out one of the best infields in the league. 

Behind the dish, Sean Murphy was coming into his own and helped a pitching staff that featured Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea Jesus Luzardo, and Frankie Montas. Out of the pen, Liam Hendriks was perhaps the best closer in the league. 

Astonishingly, after beating the White Sox in the Wild Card round and falling to the Astros in the ALDS, all of the aforementioned players would leave the team over the next three years. 

Choosing To Lose

In 2022, the Oakland Athletics would finish with a record of 60-102, finishing last in the A.L. West. It’s easy to wonder how they got to this point after three straight playoff appearances. 

Firstly, they allowed both Hendriks and Semien to leave in free agency. Joining the White Sox and Blue Jays respectively, both players have continued to be among the best at their positions. 

Following the 2021 season, all of Bassitt, Chapman, and Manaea were traded away. Losing Chapman was especially painful for a fanbase that watched him grow from a highly touted first-round selection to one of the game’s best third basemen. 

The worst was yet to come however as Olson, the team’s best player and one of the MLB’s premier first basemen, was traded to the Braves. The consolation however were the additions of Shea Langeliers and  Cristian Pache, both considered top prospects in the sport. 

A Means To What End?

“Tanking” is hardly a new concept in sports. The idea of trading your best players to avoid mediocrity and hitting the reset button on the franchise has been practiced for decades. While it may be hard for a fanbase to part with these players they’ve grown to love, teams like the Cubs and Astros have proved it can pay massive dividends. 

However, Oakland has botched the tank in almost every sense. While they have managed to trade all of their valuable assets, they have simply failed to receive adequate prospects in return. 

While the aforementioned Pache was a premium prospect at a valuable position, they have opted for quantity over quality in their other trades by choosing to add multiple mid-tier prospects instead of one high-end player. 

Currently, the A’s active payroll is just over $41 million. For reference, the defending World Series champion Astros have a payroll of nearly $174 million. Clearly, the distance between Oakland and Houston, who share a division, could not be any larger. 

It’s Only Getting Worse

Despite all of the moves made with the intention of tearing the team down in 2021, this year’s off-season has perhaps been the most egregious. 

Sean Murphy, a 28-year-old catcher who worked his way through the Oakland Athletics’ minor league system as a third-round pick, was traded to Atlanta. In return, they would receive a collection of prospects headlined by Kyle Muller and Esteury Ruiz. 

Muller, a left-handed pitcher, posted an 8.03 ERA across three starts for Atlanta last season, but showed some impressive strikeout potential while in AAA. He will be the team’s opening-day starter. Ruiz should join the outfield in Oakland before long. 

With opening day on the horizon, members of the Athletics fanbase were no doubt interested in the development of Pache after a 2022 season that saw him finish with an OPS+ of 34. An ungodly low number, there is plenty of time for the 24-year-old to turn it around with some additional coaching to help fix his approach. He showed as much by finishing spring training with a .362 OBP. 

Instead, Oakland decided he was not going to be a part of the team’s future plans. Having not made the opening day roster, he will either be traded or they will try and pass him through waivers in an attempt to stash him on the AAA team. What’s more likely is a team committed to winning will add him in hopes to cultivate his talent further. 

Bad For Baseball

“The ballpark is the key to having a larger payroll so we can compete more effectively with bigger market clubs, have a better fan experience, and retain players,” said A’s president Dave Kaval as they look to move the team out of Oakland and into Las Vegas. 

Would increased revenue in one of the country’s biggest cities help the A’s build a team? Of course. However, the team has provided no inclination that they’re willing to spend what it takes to be competitive in the modern MLB

After all, the club made $62.2 million last season, fifth-best in the league. Alas, the only impactful free agent signing the team made was bringing in 32-year-old first-basemen Jesus Aguilar on a one-year, $3-million deal. The A’s will hope he gets off to a hot start and they can trade him before the deadline. 

While the move to Las Vegas will certainly happen, it’s hard to see it making the A’s much better. Of course, players like Langeliers and Paul Blackburn have potential, but who’s to say they won’t be the next to go? With the league’s 22nd-best farm system according to MLB.com, the future is bleak. 

Regardless, the team’s ownership group will continue to profit off of television deals, an eventual state-of-the-art stadium, and whatever fans continue to show up. The 2023 Oakland Athletics will be one of the worst teams in the sport, if not the worst, and it has all been intentional. Not only bad for the players, coaches, and fans, the A’s are simply bad for baseball. 

Top Four Storylines for the 2023 MLB Season

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

As the sports world continues to rotate, we find ourselves just days away from the beginning of the 2023 MLB season, with a number of compelling storylines already brewing.

The World Baseball Classic did more than enough to get fans excited, and after Japan’s victory, the focus of the baseball world transfers to Major League Baseball. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the biggest storylines heading into the new season.

Top Storylines for the 2023 MLB Season

The MLB’s New Pitch Clock Rule

This is an obvious one, and it’s one that will cause confusion as the season begins to unwind. There’s a lot of controversy regarding the MLB’s decision to implement these new rules, and both sides of the argument make a decent case.

No matter anyone’s opinion, it’s now a rule. As with any new rule, it’s going to take some getting used to. One thing you can be sure of, a lot of attention will be placed on this new rule as the season begins.

Will the Orioles Make the Playoffs?

One of the most exciting storylines of any season is the prospect of new teams rising into contention. This year, there are a couple of contenders. One of the teams with the brightest futures in the MLB is the Baltimore Orioles.

Baltimore put together a winning season last year, and saw themselves in the playoff race for much longer than most fans would have expected. The Orioles’ young core is impressive. The team should look to put it all together and make a playoff run in 2023.

Which MLB Teams Will Fail To Meet Expectations?

As is similar with every baseball season, some teams come into the new year with massive expectations. Both New York teams, the Mets and Yankees, are already being pinned as pennant contenders. Teams like the Dodgers, Padres, Phillies, and Braves all carry big expectations on their shoulders, as well.

Every year, a couple of teams fail to meet those pre-season dreams. In 2022, the Mets fell apart in the Wild Card round, and the Dodgers were victims of an early exit at the hands of the Padres. As the new year begins to develop, it will be interesting to see which of these teams are contenders and which ones are pretenders.

Which Teams Are Going the Wrong Way?

As new, young teams come into the fold, some older squads start to fall down the standings. Watching your favorite team slowly exit from its window of contention can be tough. Unfortunately, it happens to every franchise in the MLB at some point.

The Red Sox, Cubs, and Twins are three teams that might fall into this category. Each of those three teams has been a contender in recent years. Each team finished the 2022 campaign with more losses than wins. Finding out which of these teams is headed into a rebuild will be an exciting development.

Hunter Greene Is Poised To Breakout In 2023

Think back to a year ago. After a full-on fire sale that saw the Cincinnati Reds move on from Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez, Nicholas Castellanos, and Sonny Gray, the team was fully committed to a future built on the back of high-end prospects. Prospects like Hunter Greene.

While the pitching staff was headlined by Luis Castillo, who was later traded, it was the youngsters that gave Reds fans reason for hope. Both Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft appear to have bright futures, but it’s Greene who captured the attention of the baseball world. 

When looking at his skill set, it is easy to see why. Capable of throwing his fastball at 100 mph with ease, it is never surprising to see him reach 101 or 102.

After a strong spring, Greene used his sizzling fastball to earn a spot on the team’s opening-day starting rotation. In his first start, he would face off with the defending world champions, the Atlanta Braves. While he would surrender three runs, he earned the win on the back of seven strikeouts across five innings. 

In just his second major league start, Greene broke the record for most 100+ mph pitches in a single game with a whopping 39. While he was still learning the ropes, he cemented himself as one of the game’s most exciting young pitchers.

The rest of 2022 would be much of the same. Greene would finish with an ERA of 4.44 to go along with 164 strikeouts. With an 11.7 K/9, it is clear that Greene has the stuff to succeed in the big leagues. However, the home run ball has continued to bite him this spring.

Alas, change may be on the horizon. 

Numbers Don’t Lie

By far the biggest weakness in Greene’s game is the home run ball. Despite the fact that he throws as hard as anyone in the game, MLB hitters are the best in the world at what they do. As such, if they know what is coming, they will hit it, regardless of velocity. This led to a staggering 28 home runs allowed for Hunter Greene in 2022.

So, when he wasn’t striking pitchers out with his supersonic heater, it was getting hit hard. In fact, his fastball was responsible for -7.0 runs above average despite being his trademark pitch.

Last season, Greene was essentially a two-pitch pitcher. Alongside the aforementioned fastball, he also throws a quality slider. In 2022, he threw the fastball 54% of the time, and the slider 41%. The other five percent, he threw a change-up. It is this pitch that will define his 2023 season.

Changing It Up

This spring, through two starts, things have not been kind to the right-hander. With 4.1 innings under his belt, Greene has had five runs charged to him, including a home run.

However, for those paying attention, the story is not about the runs Greene has allowed, but instead about his increased change-up usage. In his last start against the A’s, 12 of his 50 pitches were change-ups. After barely throwing it last season, he threw it on nearly half of his pitches.

Of course, it is only spring training, and it’s likely he was throwing it an increased amount in order to get a feel for it. However, Greene appears determined to make it an increased part of his repertoire going forward.

Greene said, “I obviously spent a lot of time working on that. It was my main focus, to have that pitch in my repertoire going into this year is going to be really exciting.” If he can work the change-up going forward, it will be crucial to his ability to keep hitters off balance.

Big Things Ahead for Hunter Greene

While people have certainly not forgotten about Greene, the hype train appears to have slowed down. When looking at the numbers, it is understandable. After all, no one cares how hard you can throw if it gets hit back even harder.

Still, despite playing in the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ballpark, Greene is an absurdly talented pitcher who is still improving. With 24 starts under his belt, he is no longer concerned with making the team. Instead, he is working to amplify his pitch mix that already features one of the league’s most electric fastballs.

The Cincinnati Reds will be a bad team in 2023, that much is almost assured. However, Hunter Greene will be appointment television as he cements himself as one of the best young players in the sport.