I just can't quit Alex Wood.
It's been going on for darn near a decade now. Whenever I think I'm out, having entertained all hypotheticals and determined there's nothing he could do to redeem himself in my eyes, he comes off the IL with a stretch like this one:
Yes, after allowing just one hit over seven innings against the Marlins last time out, he gave up only two hits through six innings against the Rockies on Wednesday. Granted, he allowed a third and fourth hit in the seventh inning, as well as his only two runs for the day, but it clearly wasn't enough to diminish the dominance.
So what's made him so effective this time around? Health probably has something to do with it. He missed significant portions of the past two seasons with shoulder and back issues. But you may remember he put in some work with Driveline Baseball, a data-driven pitching development program, last offseason, hoping to regain some lost velocity. He is indeed throwing nearly as hard as in 2017, his very best season, during which he went 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and nearly a strikeout per inning.
The Giants are also developing a track record for taking these castoffs who once showed an inkling of potential and turning them into their best selves, with Kevin Gausman being the most notable example but also Drew Smyly and Anthony DeSclafani.
So I'm in. After three great starts from a pitcher whose skill set I've always liked, I'm ready to be hurt again. As well as Wood hides the ball and controls the strike zone, a lot of six- and seven-inning outings could be in his future. At least the cost is low this time, with him presently being rostered in just 51 percent of leagues.
Is Alex Wood back? What to do with Kyle Hendricks? We break it down on the Fantasy Baseball Today in 5 Podcast. You can follow us to get the latest episodes on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #55 • Age: 29
Disparage the opponent if you must, but this was Domingo German's best outing of the season and came on the heels of another quality start at Cleveland last week. His velocity was down a couple miles per hour in that one but was back up to 94 in this one, suggesting all is well there. He has been vulnerable to the long ball but controls the zone well and has a legitimate three-pitch arsenal capable of generating whiffs. And with this outing, it looks like he's here to stay.
Huascar Ynoa SP
ATL Atlanta • #19 • Age: 23
The unheralded rookie continues to exceed expectations, and because he's generating whiffs, it's hard to dismiss as a total fluke. The 18 he had in this one were his most yet. He's mostly doing it with two pitches, making such extensive use of his slider that he sometimes throws it more than the fastball, which itself touches 98 mph. Noteworthy also is that he faced these same Cubs just two turns ago, and they knocked him around pretty good. I'm not totally sold yet, but he's been too good to leave out there.
MIA Miami • #24 • Age: 31
Just yesterday, I was pointing out Jesus Aguilar's four home runs in five games. He's up to five in six with another shot Wednesday. This is a guy, let's not forget, who had 35 homers and 108 RBI as recently as 2018. I think he's probably closer to a 25-homer guy, particularly now that he calls Marlins Park his home, but with the kind of plate discipline he's showing so far, he could be a competent source of batting average as well. I'd still bet against a stud outcome, but you could do a lot worse than him as your corner infielder.
Austin Riley 3B
ATL Atlanta • #27 • Age: 24
Though a popular breakout candidate coming into the year, Austin Riley got dumped in a bunch of leagues after an 8-for-44 (.182) start that yielded zero extra-base hits. A four-hit game Wednesday, though, has his season-long numbers looking downright respectable, and he also has three homers in his past seven games. His plate discipline has been far better this year, so if the power comes through like it should, he may have that breakout yet.
KC Kansas City • #63 • Age: 27
Josh Staumont's third save was of the four-out variety Wednesday. All have come in the past five days. He isn't striking out hitters at quite the same rate as last year (13.0 K/9), but he has allowed just three hits in 13 1/3 innings and is looking pretty clearly like the Royals' best reliever. If he's not the closer, then this is an all-time red herring.
Cole Irvin SP
OAK Oakland • #19 • Age: 27
I'm not totally buying into this one. Cole Irvin doesn't have the sort of whiff or ground-ball rate that would normally inspire confidence in me. But this latest outing Wednesday was his third good one in a row, lowering his ERA to 3.67, and the Athletics feel like they've unlocked something by having him throw his sinker more. "I think what we've allowed him to do that he maybe didn't do in Philadelphia was allow him to use his best pitches, what he feels most comfortable with," manager Bob Melvin said. Hey, deep-leaguers need someone to pick up, too.