Casey Mize did what he was supposed to do in his major-league debut Wednesday, which isn't to take anything away from it. For all the big prospect call-ups we've seen over the past couple weeks, we have yet to enjoy any sort of payoff. This first effort at the White Sox — one in which he struck out seven in 4 1/3 innings, demonstrating a nasty splitter while collecting 11 whiffs on just 73 pitches — suggests Mize is in a good spot to deliver one.
But another pitching prospect was debuting opposite him, and while Dane Dunning may not have the same stature or pedigree, he also struck out seven in 4 1/3 innings while also throwing exactly 73 pitches. The difference is he had 17 whiffs, making for an unreal 23.2 percent swing-and-miss rate against a major-league lineup.
I know what you're thinking: The Tigers lineup barely qualifies major league, and even the White Sox lineup has a lot of swing-and-miss in it. Each pitcher allowed three earned runs in his 4 1/3 innings to give him a not-so-impressive 6.23 ERA, so maybe all the swinging strikes need to be taken with a grain of salt.
But come on. These pitchers weren't even throwing real games at the minor-league site, so for them to come in and overpower as many hitters as they did (even if they took some lumps at the end, when their pitch counts were being stretched) is a testament to their composure and stuff.
And for Dunning especially, it's an eye-opener after a year lost to Tommy John surgery. While he has always delivered good numbers in the minors — most recently, a 2.71 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 10.4 K/9 in 2018 — the scouting reports have been less than completely enamored. There isn't even an internal logic to them. Prior to the season, Baseball America gave Dunning a 55 grade for his fastball, a 60 for his slider, a 60 for his curveball, a 55 for his changeup and a 55 for his control — high marks across the board, in other words — but they gave him an overall grade of only 50. What?
The high marks went without saying for Mize, who was the first pick in the draft two years ago and had a 0.92 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP in 13 starts last year before a shoulder injury skewed his numbers. The strikeouts were a bit lacking, which is also why the whiffs Wednesday were so encouraging to see, but his arsenal is clearly geared for power.
Mize is already rostered in 68 percent of leagues, but Dunning in only 11 percent. It would be disingenuous to call Dunning must-add seeing he was optioned back to the minor-league site Thursday morning. (The White Sox won't need a fifth starter with only five games next week.) But he'll be back soon enough, and given how sparse the starting pitcher landscape is right now, he might be worth stashing in the meantime.
We discussed Mize and Dunning, the always interesting Trevor Bauer and much more on the Thursday edition of the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast. Follow all our podcasts and subscribe here.
HOU Houston • #59 • Age: 26
This latest test was the ultimate one -- a start at Colorado and all of its pitch-flattening effects -- and Framber Valdez passed it with flying colors to give him a 1.00 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 9.0 K/9 over his past four starts, all quality. He's so good at putting the ball on the ground, delivering a rate that might end up leading the league, that it's really just a matter of him throwing strikes, which he has seemingly figured out how to do.
Ian Happ CF
CHC Chi. Cubs • #8 • Age: 26
Ian Happ's strikeout rate has been creeping up a little but is still plenty good enough to get the most out of his power bat, which continues to come through with three homers and a triple in his past five games. He has started 12 straight games, including five in the past three days, and was recently moved up to the leadoff spot, which shows how much manager David Ross has come to value him.
CHC Chi. Cubs • #46 • Age: 32
Though manager David Ross reiterated Wednesday that the Cubs don't have a set closer, Craig Kimbrel may have re-established himself as the bullpen ace in Game 2 of a doubleheader against the Cardinals, striking out the side to record his first save in his first save chance since Aug. 4. Over his past three appearances, he has seven strikeouts to just one walk in three innings, allowing no hits. Rowan Wick has done a serviceable job in his absence, but Kimbrel is getting paid the big bucks and looks like he's back to dominating.
Pablo Lopez SP
MIA Miami • #49 • Age: 24
Though it wasn't as overpowering as his previous outing when he piled up 19 swinging strikes against the Braves, Pablo Lopez turned in another effective outing, giving him a 2.42 ERA across four starts. He has a fuller arsenal now, no longer having to rely so much on the changeup, and is enough of a strike-thrower to limit damage even if he turns out to be not such a bat-misser.
Brad Keller SP
KC Kansas City • #56 • Age: 25
Brad Keller has been more of a ground-ball specialist than a bat-misser so far in his career, giving him a high floor. Granted, we could all use another high-floor pitcher in a year when so many high-ceiling hopefuls have already disqualified themselves, but Keller, only 25, may be showing some untapped potential of his own, nearly doubling the whiff rate on a slider he throws about one-third of the time.
TOR Toronto • #15 • Age: 29
In all likelihood, Randal Grichuk is just hot. A week ago, he was batting .258 with no extra-base hits, and we've seen him go on this sort of power binge (six home runs in his past six games) more than once over the years. But I am intrigued by him having what would be by far his best strikeout rate and by far his best line-drive rate -- which, again, may just be products of a small sample size, but would suggest he's an improved hitter if they're not.