“” Thaddeus Dela Cruz - Driveline Baseball

Thaddeus Dela Cruz

18u Driveline Academy

Thaddeus Dela Cruz, a 17-year-old Driveline Academy athlete, isn’t 6-foot-4 with shoulders as wide as a pickup truck. But that also doesn’t matter, because being a biological outlier like that isn’t a requirement for success in the Driveline Academy program.

Dela Cruz is living, hitting, lifting proof of that. The 5-foot-7 infielder has gained more than seven miles per hour in bat speed in the last year alone, up to an average of about 64 mph now, and he has seen his exit velocities go from the upper-70s to consistently in the low-90s in two years.

“Thaddeus just won’t ever be as big as a Gerrit Cole or Corey Seager,” Driveline Director of Youth Baseball Deven Morgan said. “But that doesn’t mean that he can’t hugely benefit from our system of player development, and knowing the path for what high-level athletes look like in terms of their athletic composition. It’s about taking a kid who’s undersized, not pigeon-holing them as a speed/bunt guy, but orienting his training around the same Big Three metrics that we know to be impactful with the best athletes in the world.”

What Dela Cruz lacks in height and weight (he’s about 155 pounds), he makes up for in work ethic. He practically lives at Driveline’s High Performance facility. Connor Stratton, Driveline’s Academy HP Coordinator, says he has to kick Dela Cruz out of the weight room each night he’s there, or else he would be doing sled pushes through the midnight hour

Take squat jump peak power, for instance, which has the highest correlation to swinging the bat faster and throwing the ball harder. In 2020 when Dela Cruz started at Driveline as a 14-year-old, his squat jump peak power was around 3,200 Watts. Now with three additional years of sweat poured into the weight room, Dela Cruz produces 4,800 Watts. The average number for an 18u athlete, guys who are a year older than him, is 4,364 Watts.

“Based on his body weight, he produces a ton of peak force,” Stratton said. “He’s in the 98th, 99th percentile for his peak power divided by his body weight. So as he gets bigger, that peak power is going to continue to grow, which will be really nice.”

Dela Cruz knows that’s an important number for him. That’s why he works so hard at it. He’s figured out that motivation is maybe his best tool. A car’s motor is more important than its frame.

“There have been times during previous years where I would be thinking about if I could have done this or that, I could have been a lot better,” he said. “But now I’m working on those things. Driveline has really pushed me to become a better player.”

On Driveline’s 18u Academy team Dela Cruz plays third, second and short. He sprays line drives all over the field. He’s a terror on the base paths. He’s a really good player. He impacts every game in almost every possible way, in a frame that looks much more like an every-man than Superman.

Because that kind of thing doesn’t matter all that much. Driveline knows way too much about what it takes to develop athletes to think that because Dela Cruz is 5-foot-7 and not 6-foot-7, he can’t be an impactful player at the next level.

“The system is not predicated on solely being able to benefit kids who are going to be biological outliers,” Morgan said. “Thaddeus is not going to be 6-foot-4. But in the moment in time that we have him in gym, we can supply enough stimulus to really drive skill and athletic development and actually put kids in a position to see just how much they can get out of what they bring to the table. It’s very much built, not bought.”

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