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10 Burning Questions: Oneil Cruz, Riley Greene, C.J. Abrams (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Jun 22, 2022
Oneil Cruz Pirates

Each and every week, I’ll address 10 burning questions that I’m looking either for answers for during the week or questions that may help fantasy managers navigate the week-to-week grind of their team.

For this week, I decided to make it a prospect-focused edition of the column with the number of top prospects who got the call in the last couple of weeks.

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What Can You Tell Me About Oneil Cruz?

If you weren’t on Twitter Monday night, where were you? Oneil Cruz was breaking Statcast left and right, and he singlehandedly makes the Pirates fun and watchable. Not only did he throw the hardest ball from a shortstop to first base – 96.7 mph – but he set sprint-speed and exit velocity highs for the Pirates this season in his first game.

Last year, in his cup of coffee, his 118.2 mph shot is the hardest hit ball for the Pirates in the Statcast era (2015).

You’re going to continue to see stats like these with Cruz, who is a physical monster (6’7 shortstop I mean c’mon!).

The question will be how he adapts to big-league pitching – especially against lefties. His unique size, speed, and power makes him a fantasy unicorn, but it also makes him a question mark in the field.

The ceiling is insanely high for Cruz, who has the makings to be a better fantasy player than a real-life player, but 18/18 seems on the table for him the rest of the way. I just hope, for the Pirates’ sake, that he knows how to pinch-hit.

What Can You Tell Me About Riley Greene?

Remember, Riley Greene was supposed to break camp with the Detroit Tigers on Opening Day before breaking a bone in his foot. He’s healthy now, and I won’t say he’s the sole reason that the Tigers’ offense broke out this weekend, but he’s definitely part of it.

The plate approach is the big thing to keep an eye on for Greene, as the strikeout rate has been around 27 percent for most of his pro career. But in 21 Triple-A games, we saw Greene cut that to 20.6 percent, which is big.

Greene, along with Corbin Carroll, were considered to be the top prospects in baseball. Look for Greene to provide you with a .265 average, .338 WHIP, 12 home runs, and a handful of steals going forward.

Is C.J. Abrams Here to Stay?

The answer is, well, we don’t know! But with Manny Machado‘s injury and Fernando Tatis Jr.‘s setback, C.J. Abram is going to get some run – literally and figuratively.

The first taste of big-league action didn’t go well for Abrams, as he posted a .172/.258/.259 triple-slash with one homer and one steal.

But in 21 Triple-A games, he posted a .314/.364/.507 line with seven home runs and 10 steals. I don’t expect him to go all Jon Berti on everyone, with semi-regular playing time, 15 steals and a handful of home runs doesn’t feel out of the question for the 21-year-old top prospect.

Who are Some Players Rostered in 50 Percent of Leagues or Fewer I Should Target?

Here are 10 hitters and pitchers who you should add to your watchlist who are available in 21-50 percent of leagues (using Yahoo rostership numbers).

Hitters:

A.J. Pollock (OF – CWS) 

Connor Joe (OF – COL) 

Christian Walker (1B – ARI) 

Nathaniel Lowe (1B – TEX) 

Alex Kirilloff (OF, 1B – MIN) 

Pitchers:

George Kirby (SP – SEA) 

Josiah Gray (SP – WAS) 

Dany Jimenez (RP – OAK) 

Jon Gray (SP – TEX) 

Roansy Contreras (SP – PIT) 

What About 20 Percent?

Like above, here are 10 hitters and pitchers rostered in 20 percent of Yahoo leagues or fewer who should be on your deep-league radar.

Hitters:

C.J. Abrams (SS – SD)

Jack Suwinski (OF – PIT) 

Josh Lowe (OF – TB) 

Vinnie Pasquantino (1B – KC) 

Luis Garcia (2B, SS – WAS) 

Pitchers:

Nick Lodolo (SP – CIN)

Mike Soroka (SP – ATL) 

Brad Hand (RP – PHI) 

Luis Patino (SP – TB) 

Dane Dunning (SP – TEX) 

What is a Bligh Madris?

Until a week ago, I had no idea. I’m in a 30-team dynasty league where 1,800 players are rostered. Bligh Madris wasn’t one of them.

But what he did was become the first major leaguer of Palauan descent when he, too, got the call Monday night with Cruz. Madris was scorching the ball in Indianapolis before his debut, and he parlayed that into a 3-for-4 debut with two RBIs and a stolen base.

He seems like a floor player and hot a guy with a particularly high ceiling, but the strikeout rate is good, the walk rate is really good, and he has some pop to go along with a decent hard-hit rate.

He’s not close to 12-team relevancy yet, but Pittsburgh is allowing the kids to play, and opportunity is one of the most overlooked values in the fantasy game.

Are You Falling for Alex Kirilloff Again?

Umm, will I watch every single Pitch Perfect movie and any movie Anna Kendrick makes? The answer is yes, of course.

See, if Alex Kirilloff has just struggled, I would get it. But he really hasn’t at the big-league level. Well, at least without an excuse.

Injuries are a concern, of course, as the wrist has been the reason that we haven’t seen the sustained first-half 2021 success that he had. But he was absolutely annihilating Triple-A before getting recalled to Minnesota.

If the wrist can just be OK, Kirilloff can still have his breakout season. The talent is insane, folks.

Is Jack Suwinski Better Than Mike Trout?

Yes. OK, we can move on.

OK, relax. We can have some fun, right?

Jack Suwinski, who sounded like a create-a-player in MLB The Show when he got promoted, leads all rookie hitters in home runs and he just surpassed the 100 plate appearance mark.

The strikeout rate is high, sure, but the swinging strike rate isn’t bad. It’s also hard to gauge just who he is after the 2020 missed season and never playing a game above Double-A before.

It’s easy to write him off, as he doesn’t have even close to the pedigree that most of the players on this list do. But something like .258 with 26 home runs and a 28K% seems possible if he gets regular playing time going forward.

Will Josh Lowe Do Better This Time Around?

Everyone loved Josh Lowe during the preseason when we found out he’d get the call, but now, no one seems to care after he struggled mightily to start the season. Lowe had a 38.7 strikeout rate in 20 games for the Rays to start the season.

The good news for Lowe is that he hit .299/.382/.540 with six home runs and six steals in Triple-A over the span of 36 games. But the bad news is that he was still striking out 31.2 percent of the time.

With the injuries to Kevin Kiermaier and Manuel Margot in Tampa, they may have no choice but to play Lowe regularly – but that strikeout rate is super concerning.

Is Jeter Downs Worth Adding?

Lol no.


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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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