Oscar De La Cruz already has pretty high ceiling. And it's getting higher.The Cubs' No. 3 prospect tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings and recorded a season-high 10 strikeouts Saturday as Double-A Tennessee held on for a 3-1 victory over Birmingham at Smokies Stadium.
Oscar De La Cruz already has pretty high ceiling. And it's getting higher.
The Cubs' No. 3 prospect tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings and recorded a season-high 10 strikeouts Saturday as Double-A Tennessee held on for a 3-1 victory over Birmingham at Smokies Stadium.
"He's starting to look more and more like a big league pitcher," Tennessee pitching coach Terry Clark said. "He's getting more comfortable with his off-speed pitches and that allows his fastball to really take off. His changeup was fantastic tonight and he's also locating his fastball much better on both sides of the plate. He's pretty impressive."
De La Cruz (3-3) set down eight of the first nine hitters he faced, including five in a row, and did not surrender an extra-base hit. He finished his outing by fanning Eloy Jiménez, MLB.com's No. 4 overall prospect, for the second time.
The only blemishes on the night for the right-hander were singles by Jimenez, the White Sox top-prospect, and Ryan Brett along with three walks.
"He's pitching now, he's not just throwing anymore," Clark said. "He's pounding the zone with fastballs and using his breaking stuff and changeup to play off of it, and when you do that the hitters don't really pick up the ball that well. What he's doing right now is quality, he's learning how to pitch, and he's going to keep getting even better."
Gameday box score
The 23-year-old won his last two starts, yielding two runs on six hits while fanning 15 over 12 2/3 innings in that stretch and lowering his ERA almost four runs to 5.93.
"What he's done over the last two starts is start to grasp what the organization wants from him and expects from him," Clark said. "He's getting information from a lot of different people and he's starting to understand it now and once he starts to get more comfortable with throwing from the same arm slot and really starts to hone his command there is no limit for this kid. He's got incredible potential."
De La Cruz's career best for punchouts came in 2015 when he fanned 13 over seven innings for Class A Short Season Eugene.
The Smokies staked their starter to a 3-0 lead in the opening frame as Cubs No. 22 prospect Zack Short drove in two with a double to left field and scored on a two-out single to center by Ian Rice.
Jordan Guerrero (1-3) surrendered three runs on six hits while battling through six frames. The southpaw finished with a walk and eight punchouts. The Barons' only offensive threat of the game came when they loaded the bases in the ninth with two outs. Ninth-ranked prospect Zack Collins worked a walk to bring in Birmingham's only run, but right-hander Craig Brooks got Danny Mendick to flyout to left.
Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobTnova24.