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.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.