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.