The Braves announced Tuesday that they’ve promoted right-hander Jasseel De La Cruz and optioned Touki Toussaint to their alternate training site. De La Cruz will make his MLB debut the first time he gets into a game.
Ranked as Atlanta’s No. 12 prospect at each of Baseball America, FanGraphs and MLB.com on their respective midseason updates, the 23-year-old De La Cruz will be the latest promising Braves arm to try to help patch an injury-decimated pitching staff. He split the 2019 season between Class-A, Class-A Advanced and Double-A, pitching to a collective 3.25 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9 and a healthy 47.6 percent ground-ball rate.
Scouting reports at BA, FanGraphs and MLB.com all credit De La Cruz with a mid-90s heater that can reach the upper 90s and, per BA, has occasionally scratched triple digits. He’s made strides with his slider and improved his changeup as well, but while he’s worked as a starter for most of his minor league career, his violent delivery leads many to believe that he’s eventually bullpen-bound. That would allow his heater to play up and perhaps allow De La Cruz to focus on the better of his two offspeed offerings, which is currently his slider.
It doesn’t appear as though De La Cruz will start a game anytime soon, so he could just be bullpen depth for the time being. David O’Brien of The Athletic tweeted last night that the Braves expect to start Huascar Ynoa today, with Cole Hamels coming off the injured list for his season debut tomorrow and Max Fried slated to return Friday. (The Braves are off Thursday.) As such, there’s no guarantee that De La Cruz will get into a game before he’s sent back out, but Atlanta fans could still get a glimpse of the future in the coming days if he’s called upon.
The impending activation of Hamels and Fried should be a welcome breath of fresh air for a Braves club that has continually struggled to piece together its starting staff in the wake of myriad injuries and unexpectedly poor performances. They’re still a lock to make the postseason, holding a 2.5-game lead in the NL East at present, but the type of starting pitching they’ve received recently wouldn’t instill much confidence in a playoff series. However, a group led by Fried, Ian Anderson and a hopefully healthy Hamels looks considerably more impressive.