Dominican baseball player spotlight: NL Central

The Cincinnati Reds are serious contenders in the National League (NL). A team that has not finished more than four games above .500 since 2013 is currently in a tight race with the Milwaukee Brewers for first place in the NL Central. A big reason for their success is perhaps the most physically-talented Dominican baseball player in the league.

Just who is this player that is likely the future of the sport? Part five of the Dominican baseball player spotlight is here to dive into how this player has impacted Cincinnati’s rise to prominence. The remainder of the NL Central will be covered as well, with varying teams with varying levels of Dominican representation. Hometowns are in parentheses. Part four, covering the NL East, can be read here.

Elly De La Cruz, the lone Dominican baseball player on the Cincinnati Reds' active roster, makes contact on a pitch at a Cincinnati Reds home game during the 2023 MLB season.
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Chicago Cubs

Young Christopher Morel (Santiago) has emerged as one of the faces of the budding offense of the Chicago Cubs. The 24-year-old utility player is enjoying a breakout campaign at the plate, slicing .282 on the season, good for second on the team. His .877 OPS is also good for third on the Cubs all season and second place among active Cubs.

Morel has only played two seasons of Dominican baseball to this point. He played on one of Chicago’s Dominican Summer League teams in 2017 and played with his hometown Aguilas Cibaenes in the 2021-22 Lidom season. While he started the season at Iowa, Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate, Morel’s play was too good to ignore. Since his call-up, Morel has played with a fire lit underneath him.

The Cubs also made two trades to acquire a Dominican baseball player. First, they got infielder Jeimer Candelario, a player discussed in the most recent Dominican baseball player spotlight. They also got Jose Cuas, who was covered in the AL Central edition.

Cincinnati Reds

Elly De La Cruz (Sabana Grande de Boya) is the face of baseball. His ability to get the Reds any hit they ask of him is astonishing. His speed is top-notch. The only reason he does not lead the team in stolen bases is because he (17 stolen bases) has played 46 games to Cincinnati stolen base leader Jake Fraley’s 18 stolen bases in 89 games.

His statistics (.277 average and .795 OPS) speak for themselves. The only problem De La Cruz has now is plate discipline (65 strikeouts, 1.4 strikeouts per game), but that will be fixed in time. De La Cruz is not the only Dominican baseball player of note in the Reds’ system, though.

The Reds infield has reinforcements on the way. Noelvi Marte (Cotui), acquired in the Luis Castillo trade, has terrorized Double-A and Triple-A leagues. Marte is hitting .281 at the Double-A level with the Chattanooga Lookouts and .321 with the Louisville Bats.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers have tied the Miami Marlins for the team with the most Dominican representation. Eight players on the current active roster are from the Dominican Republic (five pitchers, three hitters).

Joel Payamps (Santiago) leads the way for the four Dominican players in the bullpen, with Elvis Peguero (Cotui), Abner Uribe (Santo Domingo), and J.C. Mejia (Gaspar Hernandez) all having at minimum positive WAR seasons. The crown jewel, though, is Freddy Peralta (Moca). Peralta has thrown 131 strikeouts, keeping him level with teammate and NL Cy Young outside contender Corbin Burnes.

As for infielders, a newcomer to the team Carlos Santana (Santo Domingo) joins the Brewers’ home run leaders Willy Adames (Santiago) and Raimel Tapia (San Pedro de Macorís). Santana was recently traded to Milwaukee from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Speaking of the Pirates, if Oneil Cruz (Nizao) and Jarlin Garcia (Santo Domingo) were healthy, the Pirates would have an MLB-high nine Dominican players active. While Cruz and Garcia sit on the 60-day injured list healing from their ailments, seven other players make up a team that had a hot start but has since cratered.

The Pirates, like Milwaukee, have five Dominican pitchers. They are Osvaldo Bido (Los Hidalgos), Yerry De Los Santos (Santa Barbara de Samana), Jose Hernandez (Puerto Plata), Dauri Moreta (Comendador), and Angel Perdomo (San Cristobal).

The two active hitters for Pittsburgh are 22 and 23, a sign of the future. Liover Peguero (Higuey) has split time between the Pirates, their Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis, and their Double-A affiliate in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Catcher Endy Rodriguez (Santiago) is a developing switch-hitter who has spent most of his season in Indianapolis.

St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals have fallen from grace after blowing a 2-0 ninth-inning lead to the Philadelphia Phillies in last year’s Wild Card round. A team that was projected to win the NL Central instead finds itself in its basement.

This year also marks a new era for the Cardinals. Albert Pujols, a man in the conversation for best Dominican baseball player of the millennium, retired following St. Louis’ season-ending. The Cardinals icon accrued a career WAR of 88.7 and will go down as one of the greatest to grace Gateway City.

The only remaining Dominican baseball player on the Cardinals is second baseman Jose Fermin (Puerto Plata). Fermin has gotten reps in the show, but has bounced up and down the organizational ladder. He has played at the Triple-A level in Memphis, Single-A in Palm Beach, and in the Florida Complex League.

The series wraps up in the next edition with coverage of the NL West.

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