Remember back a couple weeks ago when Michael Kopech had a dominant start filing in for Lance Lynn and we were all like, "If only the White Sox would move on from Dylan Cease. What more is there to see with him?"
Plenty, it turns out. His two starts since then have been the best of his career.
There he was striking out 11 Reds Tuesday after striking out nine Tigers over seven shutout innings last time out. Between the two starts, he allowed no runs on four hits in 13 innings -- this after failing to make it five innings in any of his first four starts -- and suddenly, his season-long numbers are looking pretty impressive:
The numbers will only get better from there if he can keep pitching this way, and there's reason to believe he will. His fastball saw a big jump in spin rate against the Tigers, and the slider joined it against the Reds. For the season, the only pitchers with a better fastball spin rate than the one Cease had Tuesday are Trevor Bauer and Corbin Burnes. The only one with a better slider spin rate is Burnes.
The increased rate gives more life to Cease's pitches and is the most logical reason why we've seen his effectiveness improve so dramatically, but the potential was always there. He was an overpowering pitcher in the minors, which is what made his low strikeout rate in the big leagues so curious. And spin rate is partly what new pitching coach Ethan Katz's development program, with its use of a core velocity belt and emphasis on lower body mechanics, was designed to improve.
"The biggest thing is not getting discouraged and basically just following your process," Cease said after the Tigers start. "Eventually it will work out. It allowed me to focus on what was more important, which is how you execute your pitches."
It sounds like he's reached a point in his work with Katz where he no longer has to mind his mechanics and can instead let 'er rip. His 67 percent rostership should rise to about 97 if that's the case.
Let's see who else you might consider adding ...
KC Kansas City • #17 • Age: 29
It's been a dreadful start to the season for Hunter Dozier, but a .176 BABIP explains a lot of that. He looks to be coming around with five homers in his past 12 games. Tuesday's 2-for-3 performance also represented his third straight multi-hit game, making him 6 for 12 during that stretch. He's been a streaky player over the past couple years but is capable of reaching base at a high clip and even stealing some bags when he's going well.
TB Tampa Bay • #62 • Age: 24
Once again, Shane McClanahan dazzled with his triple-digit fastball and whifftastic slider, and it's looking like the runs scored off the left-hander will be and far between as long as he keeps his walks down. But it's also looking like workload will be a major issue as, once again, he was removed after only four innings. He threw just 63 pitches this time after throwing just 59 last time, so it wasn't a matter of fatigue. The Rays just figure to play it extra cautiously with their developing arm, as they're wont to do. If it continues, making it so he can't win any games, he may turn out to be just a ratios play for 5x5 leagues.
TEX Texas • #5 • Age: 26
I don't understand the hesitance to pick up Willie Calhoun. Maybe his latest home run Tuesday will lead to a spike in rostership. It came off a lefty, too, and in fact, Calhoun has started against four of the past five lefties the Rangers have faced. The way he's hitting, why not? He's always had a knack for putting the bat on the ball and showed his power potential with 21 homers in 309 at-bats two years ago. Last year was basically a lost season -- he got hit in the jaw in spring training and was tentative at the plate thereafter -- but he looks back to form now. He's the No. 1 hitter I'd be looking to add.
Cole Irvin SP
OAK Oakland • #71 • Age: 27
I don't really get the success Cole Irvin is having, with Tuesday's gem giving him just four earned runs allowed over his past four starts. It's true he has nearly a strikeout per inning and is hardly walking anyone. His 3.62 xFIP is also respectable. But he's giving up some of the hardest contact of any starting pitcher, most of it in the air, and he's not getting enough swinging strikes to sustain the strikeout rate. I guess I'm saying it's better *not* to pick him up unless it's an especially deep league.
Josh Rojas 2B
ARI Arizona • #10 • Age: 26
Josh Rojas hit another home run Tuesday. That's five for the season and four in his past five games. The turnaround has been startling after a 2-for-31 start, and his minor-league track record and strong spring showing both suggest it's closer to his true form. The strikeout and ground-ball rates are both too high for me to buy into a stud outcome, but his triple eligibility (second base, shortstop and outfield) makes him a handy player to have now that he's playing every day.
Brandon Belt 1B
SF San Francisco • #9 • Age: 33
Brandon Belt finally showed some signs of life Tuesday, homering in both games of a doubleheader on a 4-for-7 day. Granted, it was at Coors Field, which is on the opposite end of the pitcher/hitter spectrum from his own Oracle Park, but he was actually much more productive at home last year and has been so far this year, too. His career-best .309 batting average and 1.015 OPS last year make him certainly a player to monitor, though I wouldn't be looking to add him yet in a league where, say, C.J. Cron was still available.