A.J. Puk gave us a lot of reasons to be optimistic in Spring Training, and he erased most of that in his very first real start of the season. Facing what is supposed to be a pretty bad Pirates lineup Friday, Puk made it through just two innings of work against the Pirates, and honestly, there was basically nothing positive to take away from the start.

Puk's stuff looked okay to start out early in the first inning, but he ultimately ended up with his four-seam fastball down 2.9 mph from last season. Now, some regression there was to be expected with Puk going from the bullpen to the rotation, but the bigger concern here was that he just had no command whatsoever, walking six with just one strikeout, with just 35% of his pitches being thrown in the strike zone. It was a pretty rotten outing all around from Puk, and it surely inspired plenty of you to at least consider dropping him

And I'm here to tell you that it's perfectly reasonable to do so! I liked Puk quite a lot coming out of the spring, but I still never moved him inside of the top 200 of my rankings, even in H2H points leagues, where his RP eligibility raised his ceiling even more. Puk was dominant in the spring, but it was a sample of just 13.2 innings of work from a guy who had never shown he could stay healthy and be effective as a starter at the MLB level. 

Now, to be fair, I did have Puk ranked about 90 spots ahead of Garrett Crochet, so it might seem like quite an about-face to declare, after a single start from each, that I would drop Puk for Crochet. But the thing is ... you've gotta drop someone! And Puk was probably one of the final picks you made in a 12-team league, so it shouldn't be at all controversial to consider dropping him. It's a one-start sample size, so it could end up being the wrong move. But Crochet and Puk are both converted relievers with big fastballs who bring both injury and performance questions, and Crochet just looked like the best version of himself while Puk looked like the absolute worst in their respective debuts. 

So, yeah, that's enough to move me to drop Puk for Crochet. I'd do it for Jack Flaherty, too, if he's available, and probably even Pirates prospect Jared Jones, who struck out 10 in his debut. But, I want to be clear: That's not to say you should drop Puk for just anyone. I wouldn't drop him for Brady Singer, who struck out 10 in his own debut, but didn't look much different from the guy who has been a Fantasy also-ran for years; I wouldn't drop Puk for Paul Blackburn, who pitched well, but gave little reason to think there's much upside there. 

I didn't drop Puk in any of the leagues where I have him, because, well ... Flaherty, Crochet, and Jones were already rostered in all of those leagues. Which is all to say, yes, you should be open to dropping even players you liked a lot just a few weeks ago, but you need to have a compelling reason to do so. If a potential difference maker with a similar skill set is available, drop Puk, or Luis Severino or Mike Soroka, too. But not -- I repeat, not -- someone like Bailey Ober

 That's not to say all three will be terrible the rest of the way. But if you drop them coming off their dreadful debuts, there's at least a chance you'll be able to add them again if they give us reason to be optimistic in their next start; but this is your last chance to get a share of Flaherty, Crochet, or Jones if they truly are for real. 

Go ahead and replace Puk's name with someone like Edouard Julien or Jarred Kelenic or whoever on the hitting side, and the principle applies for hitters, too; you should be open to dropping some of your late-round targets, but only for players with similar ceilings off to better starts.