Prospect Highlights: First Look at Big Bonus Third Baseman

During the 2012 July 2nd signing period, the Pittsburgh Pirates gave out two $700,000 bonuses, one to center fielder Michael de la Cruz, and another to third baseman Julio de la Cruz. Despite the same last name and equal bonuses, the two are not related. Both are on the same path towards the Majors, spending all of last season in the DSL, then moving to the GCL this year. When they signed, Julio was considered the better of the two prospects, but he struggled and Michael took off.

Even coming into this season, Michael had the advantage, as Julio wasn’t on the Minor League Spring Training roster. Instead, he went back to the Pirates Dominican Academy and earned his way back by performing well over there. So far early in the season, Julio de la Cruz is holding his own in the GCL, posting a .261 average through 12 games after hitting .199 as a rookie last year. He has tremendous power potential, but he obviously still considered raw. Julio has some huge splits this year that can probably be explained by small sample size. He’s hitting .091 against lefties and .087 in road games. At home, he’s batting .435 and he’s hitting .314 against right-handed pitchers.

Right now he is considered a raw project. There is no guarantee that he will stick at third base, but the Pirates are wisely keeping him there for now because that is where he has the most value. He’s playing this season as an 18-year-old, which makes him about a year and a half younger than the GCL ¬†average(19.7 for hitters, 20.5 for pitchers). Julio de la Cruz might not be the better prospect of the two DLC’s, but he was considered better by many not that long ago and Michael hasn’t hit well in his first few weeks in the league, so things could change in the rankings by the end of the year. If he starts hitting for power and improves defensively at third base, the Pirates just might have themselves a top 30 sleeper prospect at the hot corner.

Below are two videos of Julio de la Cruz courtesy of the GCL Pirates fan page.

Second at-bat

Author: John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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  • R Edwards

    Even after his disappointing season last year, I still though Julio was a better prospect than Michael – primarily because of his size and power potential. Regardless of which one you like better, they are both VERY young – Julio 18 and Michael 17.

    • John Dreker

      MDLC turns 18 today

      • R Edwards

        And they didn’t even start him on his birthday! I just checked the box score….

  • Joe Sweetnich

    With the number he wears and his build, Julio looks a little like Dave Parker!

  • leadoff

    Amazing how big these guys are for such a young age, not much body projecting needed for these guys.

  • https://profiles.google.com/105668650510920614054 Brian Bernard

    doesn’t seem to like curveballs though.

    • R Edwards

      Really, who does? Everyone likes to hit straight fastballs! :)