Notes: Cruz, Arcia, Moore and More

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It sounds like it’s finally almost Oneil Cruz time. Fan account Pirates of the Allegheny stated Monday that a source involved with the team said a weekend callup was planned, and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal dropped a similar hint in his notes column on the same day. With super-two arbitration now out of the picture, there’s no longer much reason financially for the Pirates to hold him back, and Cruz has been plenty productive of late, hitting .309/.400/.617 with seven homers in 21 games since May 15.

Most likely, Cruz will open up at shortstop for the Pirates. 39 of his 48 starts this year have come at his natural position. The rest have all come in left field, but he hasn’t played there any more than usual of late. If Cruz proves adequate at shortstop, then the Pirates could slide Kevin Newman to second base once he returns from a groin strain. If not, they can put Cruz in the outfield and live with some growing pains there. A corner outfield spot would seem to be his probable long-term home.

Cruz will take over as perhaps the NL’s hardest hitter when he arrives. In his two-game stint in the majors at the end of last year, he crushed a ball 118.2 mph, giving him the seventh highest max exit velocity of anyone in the majors. This year, he had a ball clocked at 122 mph off the bat. He’ll strike out a fair amount, and since he’ll play in a tough ballpark for power and hit the ball on the ground a bit too often, his power numbers may fall short of outstanding. It also won’t help that he’ll be hitting in the middle of a rather terrible lineup. Still, he should be of plenty of use in shallow leagues anyway. Think 15 homers and, hopefully, 10-12 steals.

National League notes

- The Pirates called up another 23-year-old outfielder on Monday, promoting Canaan Smith-Njigba for the first time and sending down old man Travis Swaggerty (he’s 24). Smith-Njigba, Jack Suwinski and Cal Mitchell are all 23 years old (as is Cruz). Smith-Njigba was a strong OBP guy in the minors, combining solid averages with exceptional walk rates. He looks like he should be a power hitter, too, but he’s amassed just seven homers in 125 games in the high minors the last two seasons. If he can unlock his potential there, he could be a nice regular down the line. First, he needs to stop putting the ball on the ground so often. It seems unlikely that he’ll stick this time around.

- Rather than make a third rehab start, Jack Flaherty will rejoin the Cardinals’ rotation Wednesday. He’s likely to be limited to about 75 pitches, so it’s possible he won’t make it through five innings. Still, it sounds like his stuff should be pretty closer to normal, and since he’s facing the Pirates, he should be well worth using in mixed leagues right away.

- Corey Knebel should have asked for one more day off to deal with his shoulder tightness, apparently. In his return Tuesday night, he took a blown save as a result of an Alec Bohm error, two walks and a groundball single. Now he’s out of the closer’s role, if perhaps only temporarily, according to interim manager Rob Thomsen. Seranthony Domínguez seems like the obvious beneficiary there and is worth a pickup, though Brad Hand could also get save chances when lefties are due up in the ninth. Most likely, Knebel will eventually get the job back if he’s truly healthy.

- I tried to make the case for Orlando Arcia here a few weeks ago, but the Braves weren’t interested in giving him a real look at DH or in left field. Now, though, he should have second base mostly to himself with Ozzie Albies out 6-8 weeks due to a broken foot. Arcia has had some incredibly impressive numbers on contact this year, posting a 57.5% hard-hit rate and upping his launch-angle some to take advantage of the extra power. Unfortunately, he no longer seems to be much of a threat for steals. Still, I think he’ll offer some mixed-league value while Albies is out.

- Stephen Strasburg’s stuff just wasn’t impressive at all in his return last week, and now he’s back on the IL with a stress reaction in his ribcage that’s related to his thoracic outlet surgery. The Nationals aren’t writing him off for the season, but fantasy leaguers can probably do so.

- Esteury Ruiz’s incredible success in Double-A (.344/.474/.611, 9 HR, 37 SB in 232 PA) has carried over since a promotion to Triple-A. In fact, he’s been even better for El Paso, going 13-for-35 with three homers in his first seven games. Formerly a second baseman, Ruiz was made a full-time outfielder last year and has mostly played center this season, though he has been given a couple of starts in left since moving up to Triple-A. Six weeks ago, it really didn’t seem like the Padres had any internal alternative to the struggling Trent Grisham. Now they do in Ruiz, though Grisham’s improved play these last three weeks has alleviated the need. Nomar Mazara has also looked pretty good since getting the call, so Ruiz will likely stick in Triple-A for a while. However, if an injury creates an opportunity for him, his speed will make him a must-grab player.

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American League notes

- Of course Oakland’s offense was going to be awful, but it’s especially discouraging that the team just sent down its second youngest position player (Kevin Smith) on Monday and recently dropped its youngest (Cristian Pache) into a part-time role. Pache is the only player on the entire major league roster under 26 years old. If he doesn’t pan out, there might not be another guy on this team that’s a part of the next contender the A’s put on the field.

At least Smith’s replacement was worthy of a shot. Jonah Bride, 26, is making his major league debut after hitting .347/.443/.581 in 33 games between Double- and Triple-A this year. He came in at .265/.407/.424 in Double-A last year. The A’s tried converting him into a catcher last fall, since they didn’t see him making it as a starting infielder. Now that his bat has taken off, catching seems to be on the back burner and he’ll probably get most of his playing time at third base. I really doubt he’ll turn into a mixed-league guy, but it’d be a good story if he makes it.

- Dylan Moore is getting some additional playing time in Seattle of late, and he’ll likely be fairly valuable in fantasy leagues if that continues. Moore has eight steals in limited action this year and 41 in 202 games and 620 plate appearances since the beginning of 2020. He’s not hitting for average and that’s unlikely to change, but his exit velocity numbers are better this year than last season and he’s sporting a .378 OBP thanks to a very patient approach at the plate (he’s swinging at just 35% of the pitches he sees and has a 15.5% walk rate).

- I was hoping it was a back issue when the White Sox were hiding Liam Hendriks’ injury, but a flexor tendon strain was far worse news. They’re saying they hope to get him back in three weeks, but this could turn into a long-term problem. Kendall Graveman figures to be the primary closer for now, though the White Sox will be careful in how they use him and thus indicated that Joe Kelly could get some save chances, too. Really, though, Graveman is the one to roster.

- Since Anthony Santander’s vaccination status prevented him from traveling to Toronto, Kyle Stowers is getting his first taste of the majors this week. It seems like to be a short-term move, since the Orioles are going to want him to play regularly and aren’t likely to sit any of their starting outfielders. Stowers, though, should be in line for a longer look later this season, as there’s a good chance that at least one of Santander, Trey Mancini or Cedric Mullins will be dealt this summer. Cutting his strikeout rate from 32.3% in 2021 to 25.4% this year has made Stowers more intriguing as a prospect. He has impressive power, and as a left-handed hitter, he won’t be as bothered by the changes at Orioles Park as the team’s righties have been. He has little steal ability and batting average is likely to be an issue for him, so he’s not an excellent fantasy prospect.

- The unfortunate wrist injury suffered by Eli White in an outfield collision has gotten Leody Taveras another chance in Texas. Taveras, who is still just 23, hit .294/.335/.485 with seven homers and seven steals in 49 games in Triple-A this year. He’s an excellent defender in center and he’s upped his power production the last two years, so there’s still plenty of hope for him as a long-term regular. Unfortunately, he’s just a .187/.250/.318 hitter in 84 major league games to date. He’ll probably have to steal a bunch of bases to be useful in shallow leagues now.

- Danny Jansen’s fractured finger resulted in a promotion for 22-year-old Gabriel Moreno, one of the game’s very best prospects, but it doesn’t seem at all likely that Moreno is up for good, especially since Jansen and Alejandro Kirk have both performed like top-10 (top-five?) catchers this year. It’s going to be fascinating to see what the Jays do with that situation next year; Moreno should be ready then after a full season in Triple-A, giving the Blue Jays three legitimate starters. Jansen would fetch something pretty significant in trade this winter even if his offensive production drops off (as seems likely).

- Jake Meyers, making his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, is eight games into his rehab assignment for Triple-A Sugar Land, though he’s just 5-for-27 with one extra-base hit so far. The Astros have gotten something close to average play from their center fielders to date, but no one has stepped up to claim the job. In fact, in the team’s last six games, Chas McCormick, Jose Siri and Mauricio Dubón have each made two starts at the position. Meyers will probably get more of a look once he’s activated, resulting in a Triple-A demotion for either McCormick or Siri (unlike Dubon, those two have options remaining). Meyers has enough power and speed to offer some mixed-league value if he’s fully healthy. Still, he’ll be a wait-and-see guy.