It’s still a bit early to look at division standings, but two of baseball’s most exciting, young, prospect-charged teams are contending for division crowns, potentially one year ahead of schedule. One of those teams, the Cubs, has already called up three of their four players who appeared in the top-20 of prospect rankings this season. By now, you’ve likely missed your chance to roster Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler or Addison Russell. If you still want to invest in prime young talent, though, keep your eye on the Astros. The surprise AL West leaders have one of the very best prospects on the way, as well as another young, powerful bat that should be in Houston before long. Those two players lead this week’s Waiver Wire Report.
Carlos Correa, Astros (Mixed: $17, AL-only: $35)
It didn’t take long for Carlos Correa to show the Astros that the Double A level was no match for his talents. He started the season with Houston’s team at Corpus Christi, slashing .385/.459/.726 with seven homers, 15 doubles, two triples and 15 steals. Now that he’s with Triple A Fresno, a promotion to the majors can’t be too far down the road. Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com ranked Correa the No. 3 prospect entering the season, while Baseball America had him fourth.
With Jed Lowrie on the shelf until after the All-Star break after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb, the Astros have an obvious need at shortstop. They’ll likely keep Correa in the minors until after the Super Two deadline passes, thus delaying his arbitration eligibility for a year, but expect to see him in Houston not long after that. The Astros are 4 1/2 games ahead of the Angels in the AL West and have to be considered a legitimate threat to stay there all season. There’s no doubt that their best lineup right now includes Correa. Assuming he does get the call shortly after the Super Two deadline passes, he could be with the Astros by this time next month. That makes him a great player for fantasy owners to stash right now.
Jon Singleton, Astros (Mixed: $8, AL-only: $16)
Unlike Correa, we’ve seen Singleton in the majors already. Of course, that cup of coffee in 2014 didn’t go too well. Singleton hit just .168/.285/.335 in nearly 400 plate appearances and carried an ugly 37% strikeout rate. Singleton’s still striking out his fair share at Triple A Fresno, but he’s also hitting for the sort of power that’s impossible to ignore.
Singleton leads the Pacific Coast League with 12 homers to go along with 40 RBIs, 10 of which he got in one game last week. Chris Carter is struggling mightily this season, hitting .158/.266/.325 with six homers and a strikeout rate pushing 40%. The contending Astros can’t let Carter be an albatross in their lineup for too much longer. Singleton’s going to get his chance sooner rather than later, and he’ll be an immediate fantasy asset once he’s up with the big league club.
Yunel Escobar, Nationals (Mixed: $7, NL-only: $19)
Escobar has quietly put together a really nice season at the top of the Washington order. His signing understandably didn’t receive the same attention as did Max Scherzer’s, but the Nationals probably wouldn’t be where the are—finally in a position to overtake the Mets in the NL East—if they didn’t have Escobar. Through 145 plate appearances, the veteran infielder is slashing .328/.372/.403 with two homers, 21 runs and 13 RBIs. He’s exclusively hitting second in the Nationals’ lineup, giving him a ton of run-scoring upside for the rest of the season. He remains widely available in fantasy leagues and has eligibility at both shortstop and third base. If you need help at either spot, and that’s entirely possible given all the shortstops on the DL (Jose Reyes, Jean Segura, Jed Lowrie) or playing poorly (Elvis Andrus, Erick Aybar), go grab Escobar now.
Brad Ziegler, Diamondbacks (Mixed: $7, NL-only: $11)
Addison Reed has routinely played with fire, going back to his days as the closer for the White Sox. All that danger finally caught up with him earlier this week, when he blew his second save in four chances and lost his ninth-inning gig. Manager Chip Hale said he’d play matchups, but for now Ziegler appears to be the favorite to take over as a permanent closer. Ziegler has been the best reliever in Arizona’s bullpen this season, posting a 1.17 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 15 1/3 innings. Ziegler doesn’t have much, if any, strikeout upside, but that is of secondary importance for owners speculating in saves. Hale did say that Reed could pitch his way back into the closer’s role, but that seems a long way off at this point. Ziegler should be a cheap source of saves for the foreseeable future.
Nori Aoki, Giants (Mixed: $3, NL-only: $13)
Aoki essentially had zero fantasy value last season. A .285 batting average and .349 OBP doesn’t do a whole lot for fantasy owners when it comes with just 17 steals, one homer and 63 runs scored. Those rates would definitely play with better counting stats, however, and Aoki is running more often this year than he did last year. The 33-year-old outfielder already has nine steals in 12 attempts and could very well get back into the mid-20s in swipes. Remember, Aoki stole 30 bags as a rookie in 2012 and 20 the following season. At the very least, he can give you cheap steals for as long as you need someone with speed. If he proves capable of stealing one-plus bases per week, he could be a regular starter in deeper leagues.