The most added player in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues over the past week is Mike Fiers, and it's easy to see why. Fourteen of the 18 outs he recorded were strikeouts, and it's only the eighth time in the last 100 years that a pitcher has racked up 14 strikeouts in six innings or less.
The 14-K game followed up a very nice return for Fiers, when he held the Dodgers to one earned run in eight innings while striking out five. However, before these two impressive outings, Fiers last made a start in the majors in 2013, when he was trounced in his only three starts of the season, posting a 12.66 ERA in 10 2/3 innings and serving up six home runs.
Should Fiers' ugly 2013 performance in the rotation give owners pause? Hardly.
Going back another season, Fiers turned in excellent numbers in the rotation in 2012, posting a 3.74 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 135:36 K:BB ratio in 127 2/3 innings over 22 starts and one relief appearance. He certainly earned consideration as a potential anchor in the rotation in 2013. But that's not how things played out. Fiers was rocked in his first start last season and then relegated to the bullpen, where he looked to have trouble adjusting to the more spontaneous nature of his appearances. He made seven relief appearances before getting another shot at starting in late May. He fared poorly again, saw another relief appearance before May was over, then was blasted in a June start, which was his last major-league exposure of the year.
Here's the thing: In 2012, he made 10 appearances on four days rest and eight on five days rest, also pitching twice on three days rest, once on six days rest and once on 10 days rest. For the majority of the season, he knew he'd be up every fourth or fifth day and could prepare accordingly. In last year's troubled season, he didn't have any chance to get into a rhythm, pitching in the bullpen after his first start of the year and then shifting back and forth between starting and relieving in his last few outings. Doesn't sound like a recipe for success, does it?
The Brewers finally put Fiers back on a regular schedule this season, and the results have improved dramatically. Working around a brief major-league bullpen stint in mid-June, Fiers has dominated Triple-A hitting, posting a 2.55 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 129:17 K:BB ratio in 102 1/3 innigs over 17 starts (and no relief appearances). Back in rhythm, Fiers' success has followed him to the majors, where he has delivered back-to-back excellent lines, including Thursday's eye-popping 14-strikeout game.
Fiers, of course, isn't going to strike out 14 batters on a regular basis. But in 2012, he did manage to collect 10 strikeouts three times and between seven and nine strikeouts six times en route to delivering a 9.5 K/9 mark. Pitching as well as he did over the course of 22 starts two years ago, delivering dominant minor-league numbers in 2014 and then excelling in his first two major-league starts of the season is plenty enough reason to erase the memories of last year's ugly stat line. Not only is he a clear high-priorty add for Fantasy owners, but he possesses the upside to be the single-most important addition of the second half for Fantasy lineups. You're not going to find many guys on the waiver wire at any point of the season that have the potential to deliver top-10 Fantasy production at their best. Fiers, however, has the potential to be that good.