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Fantasy Baseball Category Pickups: Elly De La Cruz, Aaron Civale, Josh Naylor

Fantasy Baseball Category Pickups: Elly De La Cruz, Aaron Civale, Josh Naylor

Prospects, prospects, and more prospects. June is typically the month when teams look to their younger players to fulfill their needs. It’s still too early in the season to pull off any major trades, and service time is no longer an issue with a third of the year gone by. Plus, many teams are dealing with a handful of injuries and require immediate productive replacements at a few key positions.

In today’s fantasy world, managers are much more keen on prospects and their approaching promotions. With so much awareness comes limited availability, but even the highest touted ones are still left unrostered in nearly half of the leagues. However, once the news breaks of their imminent call-up, they usually don’t last long, so now is the time to act.

This week’s top waiver wire adds are made up of both youngsters and a handful of trusty veterans. Each of these studs, either young or old (by baseball standards), can help you in at least one major category.

All players listed are rostered in less than 50% of Yahoo leagues (or close to it) and are broken by category of where they’re most likely to contribute. Also, it’s important to note that I don’t repeat players week to week. So if there is someone blatantly missing, he was almost surely featured before. It’s never a bad idea to check back to last week’s addition to see if any of those guys are still available as well. And if you’re in search of pitching, you’re in luck because there are plenty of great options this week.

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Fantasy Baseball Category Pickups

Here are this week’s top waiver wire options broken down by category.

RBI

Josh Naylor (1B, OF – CLE): 46%

Naylor’s been inconsistent, but he’s partially not to blame. A classic early case of bad luck, the Guardians’ first baseman has a .263 BABIP even with the shift ban. His strikeouts remain low at just 17%, and his barrel rate sits at a fine 9.2%. He’s also hitting the ball harder than ever, averaging a 46.1% hard-hit rate. All this adds up to an xBA of .292 (instead of .253) and an xSLG of .512.

Surprisingly, even with all the bad luck, Naylor has still managed to scratch across 40 RBIs in the young season. Still just 25 years old (it feels like he should be closer to 30), he regularly bats cleanup for the Guardians, directly following their top three on-base threats. Out of his 170 at-bats, 90 of them have come with men on base, so it’s no wonder he’s already collected so many ribbies.

Cleveland’s offense has struggled mightily this year, but it should only be a matter of time until they start firing on all cylinders. More men on base mean more RBIs for Naylor, and that’s a good thing. He has eight RBI over his last three games and deserves a roster spot in most leagues.

Batting Average

Spencer Steer (1B, 3B – CIN): 52%

The Reds have two exciting young infielders still biding their time in the Minor Leagues, but while Steer is producing like this, he’ll continue to find his name in the starting lineup. Acquired in the Tyler Mahle trade last year, Steer is hitting .346/.400/.731 with three home runs and six RBIs over the last seven days. His OPS since the middle of May is over 1.000, and he’s consistently averaged an exit velocity of over 94 mph.

The Reds’ first baseman has been demolishing breaking pitches, and if he can continue to improve his production against heaters (he’s currently around league average), he could reach a .300 batting average in no time. His rostership is rapidly increasing, but for those in shallow leagues, the Reds’ third-ranked prospect may still be available.

Runs

Elly De La Cruz (3B, SS – CIN): 42%

If you’re not in on De La Cruz yet, it may be too late. The Reds’ highly prized rookie is on the verge of joining fellow top prospect Matt McClain in Cincinnati. After a scorching stretch in the Minors, De La Cruz’s promotion should be imminent, and he’s almost a sure bet to make an immediate impact. Even if he hits for a low batting average, he’ll still likely contribute across the other four categories. Think of him as this year’s Oneil Cruz. The 21-year-old fourth-ranked prospect in all of baseball is lightning fast and just as powerful. He deserves a roster spot in all formats.

Home Runs

Jordan Walker (3B, OF – STL): 55%

Speaking of prospects, the highest-ranked of all is on his way back to the Show. Walker had a decent beginning to his Major League career but was sent down after just 20 games. The Cardinals’ cleanup hitter of the future was demoted partly because of the log jam in the outfield as well as perhaps a bit of service time manipulation. He was also hitting a few too many ground balls for a guy his size.

Regardless of the reason, Walker is back with not only a chip on his shoulder (to show that he belongs) but also a bit more experience. The Cards have suffered a rash of injuries in the outfield, so he should have no trouble sticking around and playing every day.

Walker has light tower power, which we saw a glimpse of in Spring Training, and if he can continue to improve at the Major League level, he could be a monster in the second half.

Josh Donaldson (3B – NYY): 6%

There’s a good chance Walker’s unavailable, so let’s turn our attention to our old friend Josh Donaldson instead. Donaldson hasn’t been a fantasy asset for some time, but there’s no denying the two bombs he hit Friday night in his first game back. Both homers were impressive, considering one came off of the arm of Clayton Kershaw, and the other came late in the game as the Yankees were trying to mount a comeback. Donaldson also hit a dinger in his three-game rehab assignment. The aging third baseman may just have something left in the tank, so he’s worth an add for those in deeper leagues lacking home runs.

Stolen Bases

Willi Castro (2B, 3B, SS, OF – MIN): 45%

Castro qualifies at nearly every position and has been racking up stolen bases lately. He’s swiped six bags over his last eight games and is up to 11 on the season. The 26-year-old utility man has also scored 21 runs despite only accumulating 110 at-bats. Castro’s earned more playing time recently and is an excellent option for those in search of steals.

Wins

Jack Flaherty (SP – STL): 41%

Flaherty seems to have righted the ship of late, allowing just five runs over his last four starts. His ERA over that span is 1.87, and he’s striking out better than a batter per inning. The Cardinals’ bullpen has already cost him a few wins, but pitching deep into games gives him a great chance at earning a victory every time out.

Walks have been Flaherty’s biggest weakness this season, but over his last two starts, he’s surrendered just one free pass in each game. He won nine games over just 15 starts two years ago, and now that he’s finally feeling healthy again, he could get on another nice roll.

It wasn’t that long ago that Flaherty was a Cy Young candidate, and while he’s not yet reached that version of himself, he has once again become a relevant fantasy pitcher.

Ben Lively (SP, RP – CIN): 34%

Lively has been a pleasant surprise for Cincinnati. Since being added to the starting rotation, the former KBO standout limited the Yankees and Cardinals to two runs each and then held the Red Sox scoreless. He’s thrown 17.1 innings over those three starts, and his advanced analytics back up his stellar play. He doesn’t throw hard but mixes his pitches well and, similar to Chris Bassitt, has a plethora of offerings to turn to. He’s an excellent sleeper the rest of the way.

WHIP

JP Sears (SP, RP – OAK): 7%

Sears is the lone bright spot in the A’s rotation. He won’t earn a ton of wins (actually, he doesn’t have any yet), but he can help lower your WHIP while adding in a decent amount of strikeouts. Since the end of April, the sophomore starter has thrown 33.2 innings and allowed just 27 hits and five walks. His control has been exceptional, helping lead to a WHIP below 1.00 for May and 1.07 for the entire year. Sears had a similar run last season, where he maintained a WHIP below 1.00 over his first nine games (five starts). He’s lined up to face the Pirates on the road this week, which could end in Sears earning his first victory.

ERA

Jaime Barria (SP, RP – LAA): 7%

Barria is an unstoppable force not to be reckoned with. He’s the Angels’ version of Zac Gallen, allowing just two earned runs since April 4th. Barria may have only started two games this season compared to Gallen’s 12, but let’s not get caught up in semantics.

The 26-year-old from Panama has thrown 30.1 innings since the beginning of April and has an ERA of just 0.60. His WHIP on the season stands at an even 1.00, and he’s struck out exactly a batter per inning. Barria has earned his way into the starting rotation and is set to take on the Cubs on Tuesday. He looked great against their cross-town Southsider rivals last week, limiting the Chi Sox to just one run over five innings. He’s worth a look in deeper leagues while he’s throwing with added velocity and a ton of confidence.

Aaron Civale (SP – CLE): 24%

Civale returned from the IL on Friday, tossing five shutout innings against the Twins. He looked every bit as unhittable as he did to close out last season when he allowed just two runs or less in 10 out of 11 outings. Civale has a wicked curveball that keeps hitters guessing and is someone to be targeted in all leagues.

Strikeouts

Edward Cabrera (SP – MIA): 49%

Cabrera has had control issues all season long but still managed to strike out 11.79 batters per nine. He’s looked much better of late, walking just six batters over his last four starts while still K’ing 27. The flame-throwing 25-year-old is a solid bet to keep the strikeouts coming and should be rostered in most league types.

Grant Anderson (RP – TEX): 3%

Anderson is funky out there with his sidearm delivery, but he did something this week that no other Texas Ranger had done before. It was the first time a player struck out seven batters while coming out of the bullpen in his Major League debut. Anderson faced nine hitters, recording eight outs, and struck out seven of them. His strikeout ratios in the Minors were also very extreme. He’s not for everyone, but for those in deeper 14+ leagues, Anderson will help boost your strikeout totals, similar to Jose Alvarado in Philadelphia.

Saves

Miguel Castro (RP -ARI): 44%

It’s slim pickings this week when it comes to closers, but Castro may be your best bet. Giovanni Gallegos is worth a look if he’s still available, but he’s been struggling lately and could be thrust back into a more traditional setup role.

Castro, on the other hand, doesn’t have a great track record but has been good lately. He’s six for seven in save opportunities and is boasting an excellent 2.13 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. He has held batters to just a .193 batting average and has been limiting walks – something he has struggled with in the past. He picked up another save just yesterday and looks to be the D’backs closer of choice at the moment. He’s worth adding in the interim if you’re in need of saves.

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Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.

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