The Pirates inked Dominican center fielder Michael De La Cruz the day after his sixteenth birthday last year, agreeing to a $700,000 deal or the equivalent of late second/early third round money had he been draft eligible.
De La Cruz, who already stands 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, is among the youngest prospects in the Dominican Summer League this season. And despite being more than two years younger than the average DSL prospect, the lefty-swinging outfielder is more than holding his own thus far.
Through the first 45 games of his professional career, De La Cruz is hitting .319/.464/.413. According to Weighted Runs Created Plus, his total offensive production has been 63% better than the league average, the seventh best highest mark in the DSL.
And while his power is still developing – he’s posted a below-average .094 ISO – he’s other secondary skills are quite promising. He’s second in the league in walk rate (21.1%), shows some solid speed (13 stolen bases, though his technique needs improvement), and has strong contact skills (14.6% K-rate). He’s also shown no platoon splits thus far (extremely small sample size).
As for the power, it’s going to be a solid-average skill at the very least. His line drive (16.5%) and fly ball (31.6) rates are precursors to more than he’s showing this season.
Right now, De La Cruz is still flying under the radar a bit, but he’s certainly a name to keep an eye on. And while he’s still several years away from making a big league impact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pittsburgh start to push him more aggressively once he gets stateside.