De La Cruz, 27, signed a minor league deal with Atlanta last offseason after spending the bulk of his professional career in the Yankees’ minor league ranks. The 2016 season saw De La Cruz make his big league debut, and the Dominican-born righty wound up pitching a fairly substantial 62 2/3 innings for the Braves. Splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen, De La Cruz posted a 4.88 ERA with 5.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 43.1 percent ground-ball rate. Per PITCHf/x data, Cruz averaged 91.3 mph on a sinker that he threw at a 51 percent clip, and he also utilized both a slider and a changeup.
In parts of three seasons at the Triple-A level, De La Cruz has a 4.15 ERA in 184 1/3 innings to go along with 5.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. This past season, he worked to a 4.68 ERA with Triple-A Gwinnett and posted a 47.3 percent ground-ball rate. De La Cruz will serve as a depth option for an Atlanta rotation that is currently rife with question marks. Julio Teheran figures to anchor the staff next season, and the Braves also have Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler, Aaron Blair, Josh Collmenter, Williams Perez, Tyrell Jenkins and John Gant as internal options to round out the starting mix. GM John Coppolella has said that he’ll look to add a pair of Major League starters to complement that group, so De La Cruz could face an uphill battle when it comes to returning to the big league rotation, though he’ll make a handy depth option for the relief corps as well.