Oneil Cruz is worth your time

·8 min read



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Another week, another slew of intriguing waiver wire options to dive into. The All-Star break is approaching, meaning that another wave of prospects should be making their MLB debuts over the next few weeks. Seasoned fantasy managers understand that one waiver wire pickup could alter the trajectory of their fantasy teams. Beyond that, they understand that the only way to grab a waiver wire option who could make a notable impact is by remaining active on the waiver wire.

If you’re not regularly checking your waiver wire for potential values, you’re going to miss out on players who could significantly help your points league rosters. In this week’s points league waiver wire piece, I touched on six players who could help boost your fantasy championship chances. Let’s get into it.

Points League Options

(Players rostered in under 50 percent of ESPN leagues)

Christian Walker 1B, Diamondbacks (38 percent rostered)

Christian Walker has been a professional baseball player for quite some time. His journey to the big leagues began when he was drafted 132nd overall in the 2012 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles. Over 3,243 career minor league plate appearances – playing in the Orioles’ and Diamondbacks’ farm systems – Walker slashed .284/.350/.489 with 127 home runs. His most productive campaign came in 2017 when he hit 32 home runs over 514 Triple-A at-bats.

He became the Diamondbacks primary first baseman in 2019 and immediately impressed. Over 529 at-bats, he slashed .259/.348/.476 with 29 home runs. Furthermore, his quality of contact metrics, batted ball profile, and minor league numbers all helped support his power output. Walker is a true power hitter, and to start his 2022 campaign, he’s on pace to match – and potentially surpass – the 29 home runs that he hit in 2019. Through his first 234 at-bats of the season, he’s clubbed 18 home runs. His .201 batting average isn’t ideal, but based on his advanced metrics, it looks like he’s been a bit unlucky in the batting average department thus far. I can envision Walker finishing with 30+ home runs and a batting average in the .230-.260 range. Take a chance on him if you’ve been looking for a cheap source of power.

Jon Berti 3B, Marlins (14 percent rostered)

Through his first 37 games of his age-32 campaign, Berti has already set a career high in stolen bases with 18. What’s more, he’s only been caught once on 19 attempts – highlighting not only his speed, but also his intelligence on the basepaths. Speed has always been a huge part of his game. In his minor league career (813 games), Berti had a 77 percent steal rate (270-for-350). Yes, that is a lot of stolen base attempts. Ideally, you want a steal rate that’s above 70 percent, so Berti’s 77 percent minor league steal rate tells us that he’s always been an above-average base-stealer.

Unfortunately, he has yet to exceed 287 plate appearances in any of his major league campaigns. Because of this limited usage, he hasn’t been able to showcase his stolen base upside – until now. With Brian Anderson and Joey Wendle hurt, Berti has been seeing a lot of time at third base since early June. And since June 1st (65 at-bats), he’s batting .308 with a 100 percent steal rate (14-for-14). His contact rates are still above average (career 79.3% contact rate), and he remains a very fast sprinter (94th percentile sprint speed). His limited power upside caps his fantasy ceiling, but he makes for a reliable floor play in points leagues for as long as he’s playing regularly.

Steven Kwan OF, Guardians (37 percent rostered)

Steven Kwan took the baseball world by storm in April. In the third game of his MLB career, he logged five hits. Four of those five hits were singles, but right away, Kwan was showcasing his well-above average hit tool. As a minor leaguer, Kwan hit for average, stole bases, drew walks at a high rate, and struck out at a low rate. In other words, he’s a very patient and intelligent hitter who should always demonstrate strong plate discipline skills while hitting for average.

He’s not – and might never be – a guy who can annually hit double-digit home runs, but his advanced plate approach gives him a reliable floor in points leagues. Kwan’s slashing .267/.355/.349 with 25 runs scored, a home run, 16 RBI, and four stolen bases over the first 200 plate appearances of his big-league career. This is useful, but not eye-popping production. For the remainder of the season, his hit tool, ability to get on base, and speed should provide him with a few avenues to racking up points for your fantasy rosters.

Jose Urquidy SP, Astros (48 percent rostered)

It’s all about control for the 27-year-old right-hander. This season included, he has yet to have a zone rate that’s less than 45.5 percent (league average is around 44 percent). On top of that, three of his four most-used pitches for his career have a zone rate that’s greater than 50.2 percent. Simply put, he understands how to fill up the zone with all of his offerings. Because of this, he’s thrown at least six innings in 21 of his 44 career starts. However, Urquidy doesn’t possess the most overpowering stuff, which limits his ceiling regardless of how often he throws strikes.

He’s armed with a mid-90s four-seam fastball, a changeup, a cutter, a curveball, and a slider. He’s capable of generating whiffs at an above-average rate with all of his secondary pitches, but he lacks that standout putaway offering. There’s a reason why he has a 19.8 percent strikeout rate through 239 major league innings. In fantasy land, you’re not investing in Urquidy because he could be the next big thing, but because his strike-throwing mentality helps him churn out quality starts at a cheap price tag. You’ll have to deal with occasional poor outings, but you can never have enough starting pitching depth in points leagues.

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Deep Points League Options

(Players rostered in under 10 percent of ESPN leagues)

Eli Morgan SP/RP, Guardians (4 percent rostered)

You don’t have to be a closer, a starting pitcher, or an everyday bat to have fantasy relevancy in points leagues. Meet Eli Morgan. A 26-year-old right-handed pitcher who lacks overpowering stuff –for the most part – but also possesses pinpoint command and control skills. He doesn’t issue many free passes, knows how to effectively sequence his offerings, and he has the stuff to be a backend starter in time. The Guardians actually let him start 18 games in 2021 and he flashed some upside. However, more often than not, he left his offerings over the plate and got punished for it.

But to start 2022 – operating as a middle relief option – Morgan’s been a slightly-improved pitcher. His average four-seam fastball velocity has improved and he’s been routinely locating the pitch at the top of the strike zone. Additionally, he’s made his changeup (his best offering) his second-most used pitch. Both pitches have a weighted on-base average against that’s below .223. With the help of these changes, Morgan is sporting a 1.62 ERA (2.08 SIERA) and a 35.3 percent strikeout rate over 33 ⅓ innings pitched. An injury could open up a spot in the rotation for Morgan, but for now, his fantasy value stems from his ability to limit walks, pitch multiple innings of relief at a time, and rack up strikeouts. He’s an unexciting, but also intriguing fantasy option in points leagues.

Oneil Cruz SS, Pirates (8 percent rostered)

It’s time. On Sunday, June 19th, multiple trustworthy sources announced that Oneil Cruz was being called up. The lanky 23-year-old has been seeing a lot of time at shortstop in Triple-A and despite some doubts about his ability to stick at shortstop long term, he should be the Pirates’ primary shortstop for the time being. Cruz was a very popular late-round selection in fantasy drafts this past offseason, and now, those who were patient might finally be rewarded. Cruz possesses true light-tower power, an underrated hit tool, above-average stolen base upside, and improving plate discipline skills. Prior to his call-up, Cruz was slashing .299/.386/.567 with seven home runs, three stolen bases, a 11.4 percent walk rate, and a 17.5 percent strikeout since May 15th (114 plate appearances). It seems like he’s been getting better and better as he’s progressed through the minors and finally, it looks like the Pirates believe that he’s ready to stick with the big-league club.

Given his enticing raw tools, Cruz should be added wherever he’s available. Like with any young prospect, Cruz could very well struggle to begin his major-league career. But if he finds his groove at the plate early on, it’ll be hard to acquire him for the remainder of the season. Act now and stash him. If he struggles, you shouldn’t be surprised. If he produces fantasy relevant numbers, you should feel free to give yourself a nice pat on the back. Always jump on prospects like Cruz; you never know what could happen.