The Pirates Prospects 2014 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2014 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find. While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks. Be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site.
We start the countdown with the number 20 prospect, Michael De La Cruz.
20. Michael De La Cruz, OF
It’s rare that we will rate a prospect in the top 50, or even in the top 30, before he has played in the United States. The only player who we’ve previously ranked without a game in the US (including high school) is Luis Heredia. Michael De La Cruz wasn’t signed with the same fanfare as Heredia, getting a $700,000 bonus, as opposed to the $3 M that Heredia received. However, after one full season of lighting up the DSL, De La Cruz impressed enough people that he was worthy of being the exception.
The Pirates signed De La Cruz with the hopes that he could become a five tool outfielder in the future. They were higher on him than a lot of other teams, with some teams balking at his size and the line drive/extra base hit/lack of home run power aspect to his game. The Pirates haven’t shied away from these types of players, leading to Harold Ramirez and now De La Cruz.
The outfielder is a 70 runner, with a 4.0 time from home to first. He wasn’t the most effective base stealer, being successful in 14 of 25 attempts. De La Cruz has an average arm and average defense, although he also has room to grow and could develop those both into plus tools. He hits with a line drive approach, although as he gets older he could add power with the potential for 20-25 home runs.
The Pirates started De La Cruz in the DSL, avoiding the aggressive pushes they gave Harold Ramirez and Elvis Escobar the previous year. He was one of the youngest players in the league, but still dominated with a great average, and some advanced plate patience. He didn’t hit for much power, but that can be excused since he was only 16.
In 2014, De La Cruz will almost certainly move to the GCL. He was invited to the Fall Instructional League, which usually means the player is due to make the jump to the United States the following year. He will be a guy to watch for a potential breakout, due to the ability he has with the bat. He should spend the entire season between extended Spring Training and the GCL, with the chance to go to Bristol or Jamestown for the final week of the season.
It’s hard to put a rating on De La Cruz, since he’s so far away from the majors, and is a highly projectable player. He is rated here almost entirely on tools and potential. The DSL results were nice to see, but they didn’t play much of a factor here. It’s very possible that he could exceed his current grade, but in order for that to happen he’s going to need to show he can have success in the US, while developing some of his tools such as his arm, power, and defense. All of those improvements should come with age and more experience.