One of the best things about being a part of the minor league is getting to interact with a lot of the young players in the system. Getting to be at the forefront watching the Braves’ rebuild the farm system up close has been an absolute treat.
One of the best things that has struck many of us is how truly remarkable many of these young men are and today’s guest is no exception. Before turning 18 (his birthday is October 3rd), Derian had developed into a highly regarded switching-hitting shortstop prospect in the Dominican Republic and promptly played two levels of pro ball, all while continuing to learn English and adapt to living in a different country. We will not go into how much I had accomplished at such a young age as that would be embarrassing for me.
Across two levels of rookie ball, Cruz slashed a line of .248/.272/.364 including a healthy .309/.336/.445 line in the GCL. Ranked among the better prospects to come out of rookie ball this year, Derian is highly regarded for making strong contact at the plate and having soft hands and a good arm at shortstop. Baseball America just ranked him the 13th best prospect in the GCL this season with Hudson Belinsky, in his interview with us just a few weeks ago, had this to say about him.
Derian is really busy down at instructs at the moment, but graciously found a bit of time to talk to us about his career thus far.
First, Derian, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from originally and when did you start playing baseball?
I'm originally from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. I started playing baseball at 9 years of age.
When did you start trying to be a professional baseball player and what was it like playing in the baseball academies in the Dominican Republic?
When I was 13 years old, a scout once told me that I had big potential to become a professional baseball player. The only thing was handling pitches. It is about touch and harder once you go in a higher level.
When did you first know that the Braves were interested in you and how did you decide that they were the right team for you?
When I was 16 years old, I joined the Braves academy in the DR. Right then, I thought they were the best team in the market.
Did you play any other sports growing up? Also, have you always been a shortstop since you started playing baseball?
No, I didn't play any other sport than baseball. I have been a shortstop all my life.
A lot of scouts thought you were one of the better players on the international free agent market. When did you start to notice a lot of interest in you and how difficult was that to deal with?
When I was 16, I started doing a lot of international showcases. It was normal for me. It was just a workout.
A lot of fans and scouts see one of the biggest benefits you bring to a team is the fact you are a switch-hitter. How hard was it to become a true switch hitter and what did you have to do to develop that skill?
It's very difficult, because every day I have to make big adjustments at the plate. I have to work a lot batting on my left side. Every day it's a challenge.
After signing with the Braves, you started in the Gulf Coast League this year. What was the biggest change for you as a baseball player? Was there a big difference in how hard the game was?
I had to adjust to the game quickly. Once you go in a higher level, the game is harder.
You were great in the GCL and were quickly promoted to Danville along with Cristian Pache. Things did not seem as easy for you at Danville...what was the biggest difference between the GCL and playing at Danville for you?
Pitching was harder in Danville. I saw a lot of breaking balls thrown at me.
What are the things you need to work on this offseason the most before you start your first full season as as hitter? What about on defense?
I have to be more selective with my pitches. Also work on my defense like normal.
For us fans, it is easy for us to forget that many of you in rookie ball are still young men and haven’t been away from your families for long periods before. Do you stay in contact with your family in the Dominican regularly and have they been following your career closely so far?
Yes, we talk every day and they keep track of my career.
A lot of Braves fans are very excited about you, especially our readers here at Talking Chop. Is there anything you want to say to them?
Thanks for having me and I'll keep doing my best for you fans.