We always talk about who to add here, but rarely do we talk about who to drop. Can't do one without the other, of course, and for that second step, you're mostly left to your own devices. So then, in the interest of maximizing roster space, you may have at some point considered dropping one of two struggling starting pitchers, Chris Paddack or Corey Kluber.
I may not have discouraged it so emphatically prior to their most recent outings Tuesday. Paddack to that point hadn't regained the spin he lost on his fastball in 2020, thus rendering his changeup largely ineffective as well, and Kluber, who hadn't pitched extensively since 2018, hadn't gone even five innings in any of his first four starts, struggling with reduced velocity and command.
But both took a big step toward regaining their long-lost form Tuesday.
- Did we finally get a sign of hope for Chris Paddack? Add Jake Junis and Framber Valdez if they're available! 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.
For Kluber, it's a little easier to see. He recaptured the efficiency from his days as a perennial Cy Young contender, needing just 96 pitches to make it almost seven innings. His fastball velocity was back up to 91.5 mph, and he recorded a season-high 17 swinging strikes, showing that his secondary arsenal is still getting all the movement it needs. The turnaround was the result of a conscious effort to attack the zone after being too tentative early on, and it was the clearest indication that the 35-year-old may be able to recapture some of what once made him great.
"I've been saying that I feel like I'm close," Kluber said. "It was good to finally go out there and string together a good outing."
Paddack's improvements might go overlooked because of a rocky final inning in which he allowed three runs, but they were perhaps even more substantive. The spin on his fastball was up 141 RPM, making it even higher than it was during his rookie season when he delivered a 3.33 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 9.8 K/9. Recapturing that spin rate was his stated goal back in spring training, and he spent time studying video from that 2019 season in the hopes of shoring up his delivery. Maybe he just needed a little more time to figure it out.
Clearly, though, these two showed enough positive signs for you to hold out a little longer, given their upside. If they're able to meet it, they're more valuable than anything you would find on the waiver wire.
So what can you find on the waiver wire?
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HOU Houston • #59 • Age: 27
If someone in your league dropped Framber Valdez because of an indefinite timetable that at one point made it sound like he might lose the whole year to a broken finger, it's time to make your move. The Astros revealed Tuesday that he's "way ahead of schedule" and ready to face hitters at the alternate training site. After 2-3 turns there, he'll probably be ready to rejoin the rotation, perhaps as early as mid-May. His elite ground-ball rate and penchant for working deep into games made him a top-30 starting pitcher for me prior to the injury.
MIA Miami • #24 • Age: 30
With four home runs in his past five games, Jesus Aguiar is beginning to settle in. His plate discipline has been excellent so far, particularly in terms of making contact, and there's enough power there for him to factor at the first base position. He's probably more of a 25-homer guy than the 35-homer guy he was in 2018, but if he can remain an asset in batting average, he'll be startable in most leagues. Playing time isn't an issue either -- he's started all but three games for the Marlins so far.
Jake Junis RP
KC Kansas City • #24 • Age: 28
Tuesday's start was the third in four in which Jake Junis' new cutter was simply too much for the opposition to handle. That pitch, developed at the encouragement of pitching coach Cal Eldred, was responsible for eight of Junis' 13 swinging strikes Tuesday and is the biggest reason why he has a 3.47 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 10.4 K/9. And now that he's bounced back from a shaky outing last time out, I think we'll see more buy-in, with his rostership potentially more than doubling.
BOS Boston • #43 • Age: 32
Not only did Garrett Richards strike out 10 Tuesday, but he also had 19 swinging strikes. Could a mechanical change explain the sudden surge in production? "Before I was working a little bit side to side, which was throwing off my release point and causing me to kind of add extra effort in some places in my delivery that were throwing me off," said Richards, who entered the day with a 6.48 ERA. "So we kind of came up with something that would be simple for me to be able to repeat." Before injuries derailed his career a few years back, Richards was a front-line pitcher for the Angels, so ... I don't know. He might be worth a shot.
CIN Cincinnati • Age: 34
Having already ousted Amir Garrett from the closer role, the Reds might be turning to another left-hander -- one with plenty of closing experience. Sean Doolittle recorded his first save Tuesday at the Dodgers, striking out one in a perfect ninth inning. A couple rough outings have made his season-long numbers suspect, but his stuff has come back this year after a big drop in velocity last year. He should be capable of handling the role, though Lucas Sims and Tejay Antone could still factor.
MIL Milwaukee • #15 • Age: 27
A former power/speed prospect who stalled for a few years in the minors, Tyrone Taylor may be rounding into form all of a sudden, connecting for a 433-foot home run Tuesday in what was his third start in four games. He got a little bit of buzz this spring and has been hitting absolute rockets so far, boasting an average exit velocity of 97.7 mph. He's no more than a speculative play for deeper leagues, but there are enough weak points in the Brewers outfield for him to make something of himself.