In Thursday’s Rule V Draft, the New York Yankees made an intriguing selection in the Double-A round as they selected Seattle Mariners right-handed pitcher Adonis De La Cruz. Since Seattle signed him in February of 2013, the 23-year-old (turns 24 on December 20) has made the transition from the outfield to the mound.
Last season, De La Cruz appeared out of the bullpen for the Low-A Clinton LumberKings in the Midwest League. Over the course of 34 appearances, he went 3-4 with a 4.71 ERA and had 75 strikeouts to 19 walks in 57.1 innings of work. Also, he held his opponents to a .249 batting average.
In order to get more information on De La Cruz, we spoke with Erik Oas, who is the play-by-play voice for the LumberKings. Oas mentioned that he got off to a good start to the season as he walked just one hitter in his first seven outings, but then had four walks against the Dayton Dragons on May 5.
As Oas mentioned on Twitter on Thursday, one of the things that De La Cruz did often during the 2018 season was that his delivery would constantly change, but “his growth in baseball IQ” was one of the biggest improvements he made throughout the year. A comparison he gave for the right-hander was current Giants’ pitcher, Johnny Cueto:
“His delivery will change regularly and he has no problem quick pitching you. This did lead to a contentious moment this season while were on the road against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. In a tight spot late in the game with a runner at first he quick pitched the batter and was called for an illegal pitch. The umpires called stood but the general consensus from our coaching staff was that De La Cruz had not broken the rules and was a reason why our manager argued strongly against the call as it is a big part of his game.”
When you look at De La Cruz’s pitch arsenal, he is not going to wow you with velocity. According to Oas and pitching coach Doug Mathis, his fastball averaged out to 89.5 miles-per-hour and is accompanied by a curveball (76) and changeup (80.5). The key for him is going to be to command the zone and locate with the pitches that he has:
“The curveball can be a strikeout pitch when he throws it for strikes and his changeup, from what I’ve seen, can induce the now rarely seen ground ball. Adonis I wouldn’t say as a pitch that he can lean on heavily as you’ll notice with velos they do not necessarily jump out at you which is why when he is able to command the zone he looks unhittable,” replied Oas.”
As for his personality, De La Cruz is described as a player who “interacts with everyone in the clubhouse” and “jovial”. In his questionnaire before the season began, he said his favorite pitcher was Blue Jays’ starter Marcus Stroman because of his aggressiveness. As a reliever, aggressiveness is key to be able to have confidence to attack the hitters and to shake off any rough outing that takes place. One appearance that Oas brought up in particular when discussing the one improvement he has to make was when he allowed nine runs over 2.2 innings against Peoria on May 15:
“De La Cruz wants to win, don’t let his happy go lucky nature fool you, and this can hurt sometimes. His worst outing of the year came on the road in Peoria, he allowed nine runs in 2.2 innings, the coaches kept him in to work through the tough outing and coming on the bus after the game he was very down. This was carried into his next few outings and was probably his poorest stretch of the year.”
While De La Cruz can have a rough outing, he also has the potential to dazzle when all of his pitches are working. In his final outing of the year on August 31 against Quad Cities, he struck out seven batters over the course of 2.2 perfect innings.
Next season, you can expect De La Cruz to be in the bullpen for the High-A Tampa Tarpons in the Florida State League. As he continues to grow as a pitcher, the use of his secondary pitches will be interesting to watch.
True, Yankees fans might not like that De La Cruz is a Manny Ramirez fan and that his favorite baseball moment was the Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series. However, this pitcher who brings a lot of personality on and off the field will be intriguing to watch.
Our special thanks to Erik Oas for taking the time to help us learn more about the newest member of the New York Yankees organization. Be sure to listen to Oas’s coverage of the LumberKings and the Midwest League once the 2019 season begins in April.