Reds’ Elly De La Cruz projects 80 stolen bases in 2024: ‘I like running’

There aren’t many players like Elly De La Cruz when it comes to hitting tape-measure shots and swiping bases, and the Reds phenom has some ambitious goals set for himself for his encore campaign.

The second-year standout returned to spring training, and asked by the media if he had any goals for stolen bases, he replied he hoped to steal 80 in 2024. He did not have a goal in mind for homers.

When it comes to preferences, De La Cruz explained he prefers stealing bases to hitting homers for a simple reason.

“I like running,” De La Cruz said.

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De La Cruz, a top prospect before his 2023 debut, is considered by many near the top of the list of MLB’s most dynamic talents. As a rookie, he launched 13 homers and stole 35 bases in just 98 games after a midseason promotion.

The metrics back up his absurd power-speed combination. Only Ronald Acuna Jr. (121.2 mph) and Giancarlo Stanton (119.5 mph) hit a ball harder than De La Cruz in 2023 (119.2 mph), according to Baseball Savant. His 119.2 mph hit came on a 467-foot home run against Cleveland on Sept. 26.

He also had four batted balls travel 450 feet or farther, the sixth most in MLB, and just 17 players hit home runs farther than De La Cruz’s blast against the Guardians.

Last year, just 63 MLB players hit a ball 114 mph or harder, per Baseball Savant. De La Cruz did it four times, tied for eighth most in baseball despite playing in only 98 games, fewer than any of the seven players ahead of him.

That exit velocity was put on display on Tuesday when De La Cruz launched a line drive into the window of teammate Hunter Greene’s car.

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When it comes to the basepaths, however, no one is better than De La Cruz. His average sprint speed of 30.5 feet per second led the majors in 2023, and he ranked in the 97th percentile in baserunning run value.

That speed was impressively showcased twice during the campaign, first in June when he hit for the cycle against the Braves and again on July 8 when he stole second, third, and home vs. the Brewers.

There are undoubtedly areas in which the switch-hitter needs to improve. He struck out in 33.7 percent of his MLB plate appearances, particularly struggling to adjust to off-speed pitches. He was also a better hitter from the left side of the plate facing righties than he was batting from the right side facing lefties.

De La Cruz just turned 22 in January and went from the Rookie League in 2021 to the majors in just two years, highlighting just how quickly he ascended in baseball. Given how many steals he swiped as a rookie, aiming for 80 seems like a reasonable expectation.

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