By Leslie Mines III
CHATTANOOGA, TN (mocsnews.com) — After years of turmoil in Cincinnati, the 2023 MLB season turned out to be a step in the right direction for one of the most prominent franchises in Major League Baseball and it’s due to the contributions of the Double-A affiliate Chattanooga Lookouts.
The 2023 season saw lots of turnover for the Lookouts with talent moving up in the system for a scorching hot Cincinnati Reds team, who made massive strides in the NL Central. In my opinion, the Lookouts are overlooked in Chattanooga and the sheer amount of talents that come through the city has been bountiful.
The Reds were predicted to be a last place team in the weakest division in MLB, yet they finished the season two games above .500 with a record of 82-80. The Chattanooga Lookouts has notoriously been the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds since the late 1980’s through the mid-2000s before leaving the Reds system only to return in 2019.
Loads of talent have come through Chattanooga on their way to the Major Leagues like 2020 World Series MVP and current $325M starting shortstop for the Texas Rangers, Corey Seager, who slashed .345/.381/.534/.915 in 38 games with the Chattanooga Lookouts in 2014.
Yet, this latest crop of prospects from the Chattanooga Lookouts are bringing an immediate impact and buzz to a Cincinnati Reds franchise that’s been scuffling, due to the front office’s inability to spend money to build a winning team.
The center of the rebuild seems to be Elly De La Cruz, a 6-foot-5 switch hitting shortstop with unbelievable athleticism. In his rookie season he made an immediate impact and electrified a city that’s so hungry for a competitive baseball team. De La Cruz’s first 135 plate appearance provided tons of value as he had a .325 batting average with an .887 OPS and a 133 wRC+, while hitting for the cycle in a huge series versus the Atlanta Braves in June.
The sheer talent and value that Elly De La Cruz brings to the field is special. Jeff Passan of ESPN wrote, “De La Cruz at his apex — hitting the ball consistently hard, throwing it undeniably fast and running like a sprinter — is up there with Shohei Ohtani in terms of the awe his play creates on the field”
The future in Cincinnati is certainly bright with a talent like Elly De La Cruz at the helm, but there’s more talent from the Lookouts surrounding him such as Matt McLain, Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and many more.
Truly a special rookie class that should provide plenty of wins for the Reds in the coming years. The talent pool is getting even deeper with the top prospects Rhett Lowder, Cam Collier, and Edwin Arroyo fast approaching Chattanooga and ultimately the Major Leagues.