A pair of highly touted prospects and two intriguing stash candidates highlight this week's waiver-wire options. Also to consider: Several veterans who could provide immediate assistance for mixed-league clubs. Check out the names to know.
Byron Buxton, outfielder (Twins): The top name on the Top 100 Prospects list, Buxton arrived on the Major League scene sooner than many had expected. The 21-year-old possesses massive long-term potential, and he is a terrific asset in dynasty leagues. His 2015 value is less exciting, as he may struggle to hit for power and get on base after hitting .283 with six homers across 237 at-bats at the Double-A level this season. Because he could steal 20 bases by the end of September, Buxton can be owned in many mixed leagues. But his current spot at the bottom of the batting order may limit his ability to compile counting stats.
Francisco Lindor, shortstop (Indians): Like Buxton, Lindor is a valuable long-term asset for dynasty-league owners. But his recent promotion to the Majors may have been as much about his ability to shore up the team's leaky infield defense at it was about his ability to handle Major League pitchers. The 21-year-old hit .281 with two homers and nine steals across 261 Triple-A plate appearances this season, which should not spur optimism among mixed-league owners. However, there are two factors that work in Lindor's favor. First, the Indians have initially inserted him into the second spot in the batting order, which may maximize his ability to accumulate counting stats. Second, the shortstop position has been especially weak for fantasy owners this season, and the standard for mixed-league relevance is fairly low.
Travis d'Arnaud, catcher (Mets): d'Arnaud -- who recently returned from the disabled list -- should be scooped up by any mixed-league owners who need help behind the plate. After hitting .265 with seven homers across 196 at-bats during the second half of 2014, the catcher has batted .306 with three homers across 62 at-bats this season. As one of the few backstops who can hit for average and power, he is a top-10 option at the position.
Luis Valbuena, third baseman (Astros): Valbuena is one of just 12 players to have slugged at least 16 homers this season. Home run leaders are rarely on waivers, but this third baseman's .188 average is certainly scaring off many fantasy owners. But consider this: Valbuena's in-season .164 BABIP is nearly 100 points below his career mark, so consider adding him now and hope that his average improves in the coming weeks.
Wilmer Flores, shortstop (Mets): Speaking of power, Flores is tied for the league lead for homers by a shortstop, with 10. The native Venezuelan was a career .292 hitter in the Minors, and he could offer an appealing combination of batting average and power as his skills continue to develop. As was previously mentioned, the shortstop position has presented a dearth of attractive options this season, which means that Flores should be owned in almost all leagues.
Taijuan Walker, starter (Mariners): Walker produced a 7.33 ERA across his initial nine starts of the season, but fantasy owners are now starting to see the reason that he has long been considered as a top prospect. During his past four outings, the 22-year-old has allowed five runs across 29 innings. Because he is working deep into games and limiting baserunners, Walker can join the active lineup in most mixed formats.
Mat Latos, starter (Marlins): The owner of a 6.12 ERA when he landed on the disabled list on April 21, Latos spent May on waivers in many mixed leagues. During his last start against the Rockies on June 13, the 27-year-old appeared to be fully recovered from his knee injury when he fanned 11 batters across seven innings of one-run ball. Latos has a long track record of success (career 3.44 ERA, 1.18 WHIP), and he could be a difference-maker for mixed-league owners during the summer months.
Jaime Garcia, starter (Cardinals): The southpaw has thrown five straight quality starts since joining the Cardinals' rotation, which has led to a 2.06 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP. Garcia may watch his ratios regress closer to his career marks of a 3.42 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP, but that level of production would still make him a factor in most mixed leagues. On a team that leads the Majors with 43 wins, Garcia could come away with plenty of victories if he can continue to compile quality outings.
Steven Matz, starter (Mets): The Mets thinned out their rotation options when they designated Dillon Gee for assignment earlier in the week. Matz -- who has a 2.30 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League this season -- could be the next talented young hurler to join the starting five. With fellow lefty Jon Niese carrying a 4.24 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP on the season, Matz could make his Major League debut sooner rather than later. Those with bench space would be wise to add the 24-year-old now and avoid a competition for his services after he receives a promotion.
Ken Giles, reliever (Phillies): Like Matz, Giles is a terrific stash option who could have notable value during the summer. The heir ninth-inning apparent to Jonathan Papelbon has registered a 1.49 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP across 72 2/3 career innings, and his lifetime 11.6 K/9 rate suggests that he has the dominant stuff to excel as a closer. If the last-place Phillies decide to trade Papelbon this summer, Giles could immediately become a second-tier stopper.
Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.