The future is now in Cincinnati. Entering play Sunday, the Reds are 6 games out of the NL Central lead. They’ve called up top pitching prospect Andrew Abbott as Hunter Greene deals with some hip stiffness. Big bat Christian Encarnacion-Strand awaits an MLB call-up. The Reds are enjoying a hot start from shortstop Matt McLain, who has skyrocketed through the Reds minor league system. Overall top prospect Elly De La Cruz has been teasing Reds fans and fantasy managers, as he previously posted an Instagram story alluding to his call-up joining the Reds in Boston about a week ago. When Elly actually does get the call is anyone’s guess, but the trifecta of the NL Central title being within striking distance, the opportunity to cast aside some aging veterans/stopgap players (Wil Myers, Kevin Newman), and simply letting the kids play begs the question: Why hasn’t Elly been called up yet? If I had to guess, Reds management probably wants EDC to cut down on his strikeouts, but he’s brought his strikeouts down from 33% to about 22% in the past month. My bet says Elly gets the call in the next couple of weeks, latest, end of the month. You don’t need me to tell you he’ll still be the NL ROY favorite and he’s the type of player you save your #1 waiver priority claim/blow your FAAB budgets for. As Elly gets set for his Major League callup, the Reds are in the catbird seat with regards to middle infield depth, as they are already fielding calls on Jonathan India. An ideal Reds scenario would likely see De La Cruz, McLain, India, Encarnacion-Strand in the infield with Nick Senzel seeing time in the outfield, unless Reds management wants De La Cruz and McLain to move around a bit. Given how McLain and Encarnacion-Strand seemed to have leapfrogged Marte in the organizational hierarchy, shortstop/third base prospect Noelvi Marte (acquired in the Luis Castillo trade) seems to be on the outside looking in and looks to get a brief late-season cup of coffee, unless he’s traded for some pitching help.
With that said, let’s take a look around the middle infield landscape around the league:
Luis Arraez – Marlins: Had a career day this past Saturday with 5 hits and 5 RBI, leading MLB with a .390 average. While Arraez hasn’t suddenly become an RBI threat (even though he typically bats third), you know what you’re getting with Arraez, especially in roto leagues.
Royce Lewis – Twins: Off to a 3/2/6/.238 start after his return from the 60-day IL. Update: Involved in a collision at first base as of this piece Sunday. While it’s a good sign he walked off the field on his own, chances are the Twins play things safe with Lewis for a while longer.
Mookie Betts – Dodgers: Having a typical season the Dodgers have been accustomed to: scoring plenty of runs with plenty of power and a .260ish average with limited stolen bases. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like we’ll ever see him produce another MVP year like he did with the BoSox, but on the bright side, Mookie is now second base and shortstop eligible and still worth a second to third round pick.
Isaac Paredes – Rays: Still playing way over his head, but the cliff dive hasn’t happened yet, as this past month he’s slashed 10/4/18/.280/.365. He’s still in a great run-producing environment. Ride the wave while you still can.
Whit Merrifield – Blue Jays: Seems to be rejuvenated to be out of KC, as he’s chipped in an 18/2/11/.294/.333/10 line this past month. As he’s 34 this year, seems like we’ve been waiting on the slowdown for a while now.
Jorge Mateo – Orioles: May was not kind to Mateo, as he struggled to a 7/0/5/.127/.157/3 line. Mateo’s ran into some extreme batted ball misfortune, as he’s still hitting the ball with authority. Out of fourteen balls hit 100+ MPH, only two were hits. Look for June/July to be kinder to Mateo.
Ozzie Albies – Braves: Showing great power (11 homers in 221 at-bats), but the steals have dried up. As long as you’re not counting on steals, a high batting average, and OBP, he’s already surpassed his 2022 RBI total.
Zach McKinstry – Tigers: On pace for 16 homers/40 stolen bases. While it’s not always easy to call an early-season breakout, there’s a lot to like about McKinstry. He’s at the top of the Tigers lineup, eligible at just about every position except for pitcher/catcher. The Statcast profile seems to be supporting the breakout, and he should be owned in more than 55% of Yahoo leagues.
Have a great week!