The youth movement is well underway in Cincinnati, notably with the May 15 promotion of new starting shortstop Matt McLain, a .342 hitter through his first 18 big-league games. Between him and the other 25 individuals on the roster, the Reds now sport the game's second-youngest active 26-man roster.
That number, however, is about to get even younger, with the scheduled arrival of their top pitching prospect, a 24-year-old, and the approaching, much-anticipated promotion of their top hitting prospect, a 21-year-old widely considered a top-five overall prospect in baseball. They lead Monday's list of recommended pickups -- and that's in spite of what's a somewhat challenging Week 10 slate of matchups.
SS Elly De La Cruz: We'll start with the hitter, as De La Cruz has been the talk of the prospect landscape of late. The new No. 1 overall prospect on Kiley McDaniel's mid-May update, De La Cruz has been on a massive tear for Triple-A Louisville since having the start of his season delayed due to a left hamstring strain. He's one of only 12 minor leaguers with at least 10 home runs (he has 12) and stolen bases (11), despite missing the Bats' first 16 games, and he has especially dominated International League pitching of late, with .347/.450/.796 rates and six home runs over his last 12 contests.
As McDaniel noted in his update, De La Cruz has potential 80-grade tools in multiple departments, and if you want some real fun, enter "Elly De La Cruz mph" in your Google search and you'll find references to all sorts of Statcast-related big plays. De La Cruz's ascent up prospect lists reminds me quite a bit of the trajectory of Oneil Cruz, the Pirates prospect who routinely sets new Statcast standards, and while that comp might seem scary because of Cruz's current IL status and penchant for strikeouts, it's one that warrants an "all in" fantasy investment regardless of league type.
Yes, De La Cruz will probably strike out a lot initially, making him a likely streaky player (and one better for rotisserie than points-league play), but he's also one who could deliver a .250 batting average and 15 or so homers and steals -- and that's taking a conservative approach to his projections. One advantage De La Cruz has relative to Cruz, after all, is a much better offensive environment for his home games.
There are already whispers that he'll get the call to take over third base from the team's Kevin Newman/Nick Senzel partnership in the coming days -- bear in mind that's helpful for our purposes since he'd quickly pick up dual eligibility -- and that could accelerate with the Reds' decision to promote this next name. (Note: De La Cruz was promoted by the Reds on Tuesday, June 6.)
SP Andrew Abbott: Added to the Reds' taxi squad over the weekend, Abbott will now get the start in Monday's series finale against the Milwaukee Brewers, allowing the team to give Hunter Greene some time to rest his injured hip. It's a well-deserved promotion considering Abbott's rapid ascent up the minor-league chain and, like De La Cruz, Abbott enjoyed a boost in McDaniel's rankings update, included among the "risers" just beneath the top-50 cutoff.
A second-round pick by the Reds in 2021, after the left-hander had a breakthrough senior year as a member of Virginia's rotation, ultimately finishing his Cavaliers career with the second-most strikeouts in school history, Abbott tore through Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville with a combined 2.50 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 42.7% strikeout rate in 10 starts.
The latter number underscores Abbott's strikeout potential, which is why he needs to be added in all leagues deeper than ESPN's standard -- and even in those, he'll benefit from the favorable Brewers matchup as they're much weaker against lefties than righties. Both his curveball and slider are plus pitches, capable of missing many bats, and while there's always the concern about platoon splits for that pitching type -- he had 135 point ISO and 194 point OPS splits from 2021-22 in the minors -- he narrowed those gaps to the extent that he actually was better against righties in both departments this season.
Combining the two as part of the Reds' youth movement, we might well see the team finishing this season with an infield of Spencer Steer, Jonathan India, McLain and De La Cruz -- and that's assuming similarly slugging Bats 1B Christian Encarnacion-Strand doesn't force his way into the team's corner-infield mix in the coming weeks. Encarnacion-Strand, incidentally, is a .318/.373/.636 hitter with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs in 30 games since the beginning of May, so perhaps one of those infielders shifts to the outfield or DH?
It's a Coors Field week
For Monday's third pickup, let's lean upon that full Week 10 at Colorado's Coors Field, with the Colorado Rockies hosting the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants for three games apiece. Both of those visitors rank among the majors' most potent offenses, the Padres ranking fifth in runs per game (5.15) and the Giants sixth (5.16) since May 21, but it's a Rockies hitter whose hot streak warrants attention.
3B/2B Ryan McMahon: A handy hitter to have in fantasy leagues throughout what has been a seven-year career thus far, but one who has yet to bat higher than .254 or hit more than 24 home runs in any full season, McMahon aligns for a potentially great week ahead. He's one of the game's hotter hitters, batting .442/.510/.907 with five home runs and 15 RBI in his last 11 games, and is occupying a premium lineup spot with Kris Bryant currently sidelined, having hit third for the team in seven straight games, not to mention earning starts in each of the team's past five games against a left-handed starter.
McMahon is notorious for bringing his best at Coors; among qualified hitters since the beginning of 2021, he has a 58 point wOBA home/road split favoring performance in home games, sixth-largest in that direction (and two of those ahead of him are currently on the IL). Considering the matchups, as well as his recent performance, he needs to be rostered in far more than the 70% of ESPN leagues in which he currently is.
As a final note regarding the visiting Giants, they should have closer to their "A" lineup for the start of that Coors series, with both Thairo Estrada, their usual second baseman and No. 2 hitter, and Joc Pederson, their DH and cleanup hitter against righties, back for Tuesday's opener. The Giants are expected to face six right-handed starters during Week 10, making Pederson a good matchups-oriented pickup in larger leagues.