At 78 percent, Lance Lynn is right at the threshold of being too rostered in CBS Sports leagues to mention here. But given the disparity between how good he was Sunday and how bad he's been the rest of the season, how could I not mention him?
Surely, you've seen the headlines by now, but here's what it looked like:
Lost count? It's understandable. There were 16 strikeouts in all, tying the franchise record. And as you can see from the tweet, the 33 swinging strikes were historic in their own right. It's the sort of performance that would send the baseball world into a tizzy if Spencer Strider did it, much less a pitcher who entered the day with a 6.75 ERA.
Look, I can't claim to have seen this coming, but I have been resolute in my defense of Lynn after each of his many bad starts, and judging by his roster rate, I wasn't alone in keeping the faith. What I was seeing was a pitcher who had his usual velocity, his usual strikeout rate and his usual whiff rate. He hadn't lost it in the way you'd expect a 36-year-old to lose it, which had me thinking he could still get it back. There was a three-start stretch from May 16 through May 26 when he appeared to do just that, in fact.
But this was so far beyond that I'm not even sure it's explainable, apart from the miraculous. I will, however, highlight the other ways that it differed from his previous starts this year. Normally, Lynn throws his four-seamer about 43 percent of the time. He threw it 23 percent of the time in this one. In its place was a variety of pitches that most of us forgot he even had. For instance, he threw his slider and changeup a combined 21 percent of the time in this one, up from a combined 8 percent, and they were responsible for one-third of his 33 whiffs.
So maybe Lynn had the element of surprise going for him in this one. Maybe he realized that relying on three pitches with a similar velocity range (fastball, cutter and sinker) was no longer working for him and he had to do more to throw off hitters' timing. Maybe it's something he can continue to do moving forward. Clearly, these are pitches he can throw with some conviction or else they wouldn't have gotten the results they did.
If nothing else, this performance should put to rest the theory that Lynn simply can't hack it with the pitch clock, that the comparatively frenetic pace tires him out quickly and he won't be able to adjust. I never bought into that theory, but I couldn't exactly refute it either. A 16-strikeout effort does exactly that.
It also overshadows what originally looked to be the biggest news from the weekend -- i.e., four major prospect call-ups, including the No. 1 pick in the draft just two years ago. Let's get into those now.
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #80 • Age: 24
Sheehan was arguably the biggest riser among pitching prospects prior to his promotion, putting together a 1.86 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 14.9 K/9 and Spencer Strider-like 20 percent swinging-strike rate at Double-A Tulsa. In fact, the characteristics of his fastball are said to be Strider-like with its vertical approach angle and "rising" action. The fact he got only four swinging strikes in his major-league debut Friday does give me some pause, but then again, he no-hit a pretty good team over six innings. I'd call that reason for excitement, and though there are workload concerns and even a possibility he'll return to the minors once Julio Urias is activated from the IL, Sheehan is a worthy upside play at a position where everyone has a need.
CLE Cleveland • #23 • Age: 23
Naylor stands out most for being a 20-homer, 20-steal catcher between two minor-league stops last year. He also has superlative plate discipline, which accounts for his .393 on-base percentage at Triple-A Columbus. For as little as he strikes out, though, he's had trouble hitting for average, the launch angle on his swing resulting in too many easy outs. It still leaves him with a chance to be another Daulton Varsho type, so now that he's up, getting his first start Sunday, he's of course worth adding in two-catcher leagues -- or anywhere else you're dissatisfied with your catcher production. It's worth pointing out, though, that Guardians have long put a high value on defense behind the plate. Between that and his left-handedness, I question how much Naylor will actually play.
Henry Davis RF
PIT Pittsburgh • #32 • Age: 24
While Bo Naylor certainly has his strong points, Davis is the higher priority among catcher call-ups. For one thing, he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft, so there's no questioning his significance to the Pirates organization. They didn't call up a franchise cornerstone to sit, and while they have two other catchers on the roster, Davis is also capable of playing right field. In fact, his versatility could lead to him playing more than the average catcher, provided he delivers at the plate, and his work there between Double- and Triple-A primarily earned him the call. It's not a stretch to say he could emerge as the Pirates' best hitter, given his easy power and premium on-base skills (he's reached at a .433 clip this year). For me, he's a top-12 catcher already.
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #83 • Age: 26
We saw Busch once already this season at a time when the Dodgers were short on infielders, but he didn't really have a place to play and hardly made an impact in Fantasy. He arrives now with Max Muncy sidelined by a hamstring injury and indeed has made back-to-back starts at third base, including once against a fellow left-hander. The natural second baseman had recently transitioned to that position in the minors, almost as if the Dodgers saw this coming, and the timing couldn't be more perfect on the offensive side either. In his last nine games for Triple-A Oklahoma City, Busch hit .472 (17 for 36) with four home runs, most of them monstrous. His combination of power and plate discipline has stood out from the day he was drafted and makes him a reasonable Muncy facsimile. We'll see if he sticks this time.
Brayan Bello SP
BOS Boston • #66 • Age: 24
Bello's latest start against the rival Yankees on Sunday saw him set a career high with eight strikeouts. But of greater significance is that he lasted seven innings for a second straight start and has now gone six or more in four of his past five. Going deep into starts wasn't his only issue before then -- he could stand to walk fewer batters, for instance -- but for a guy with a 2.60 ERA over his past nine starts, it's a big hurdle to clear. Bello is well-suited for run prevention, having a batted-ball and strikeout profile similar to Framber Valdez, so if we can trust him to go six-plus with consistency, it'll be hard to bench him in Fantasy.
PHI Philadelphia • #99 • Age: 31
You may be inclined to dismiss Walker's eight-inning gem Friday as a natural byproduct of facing the Athletics, but what about his five shutout innings against the Dodgers the start before? In fact, over his past three starts, Walker has allowed a combined one earned run on a combined 11 hits in 20 innings, lowering his ERA from 5.65 to 4.31. That might not be enough to move you on its own, but when you factor in that it coincides with a velocity jump of 2-3 mph on basically all of his pitches, it's hard not to conclude that he's figured something out. This is a guy, after all, who went 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA last year. He says he's changed up routine and is "feeling looser, more athletic." It's reason to add him as an innings-eater for the end of your staff.
MIA Miami • #29 • Age: 26
Garrett has been on a heater ever since he made the cutter a significant part of his arsenal in early May, but his outings have tended to be so short that he wasn't really moving the needle in Fantasy. He picked up his third win Saturday, and it's probably no coincidence that it was only his second outing of six-plus innings this year. Over his past seven starts now, Garrett has a 2.13 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 11.6 K/9, which of course would have gotten him scooped up long ago if he had more wins to show for it. But Saturday's effort offers reason to hope that the Marlins may handle him like a more conventional starter moving forward.
ATL Atlanta • #11 • Age: 29
If you've been expecting Arcia's batting average to dip below .300, as any reasonable person would, you may be dismayed to find out that it's actually going the other direction. After going 6 for 11 in a three-game set against the Rockies (in Atlanta, not Colorado, mind you), the 28-year-old is batting .341 for the year. For only two days this season has that mark been below .300. It's almost certainly too good to be true, but regardless of where the final number winds up, the outcome should be a favorable one. Arcia is a former top prospect who came up too soon with the Brewers and was confined to a reserve role for most of his prime. Now that he's entrusted with everyday at-bats again in one of the deepest lineups in baseball, he's delivering.
ATL Atlanta • #8 • Age: 32
It's hard to say exactly how much utility Rosario has in Fantasy, but when a guy who's less than 50 percent rostered homers five times in four games (including twice on Sunday), he's in the Waiver Wire column the next day, period. The truth is he's been killing it this entire month, hitting .339 (19 for 56) with eight home runs and a 1.225 OPS, and of course, batting in the Braves lineup comes with certain advantages. The issue is that he never starts against left-handers, though maybe this hot streak will change that. He's 10 for 27 against lefties this year and hit a 415-foot home run off one Sunday. Injuries have held Rosario back in recent years, including a vision issue last year, but he was a reliable contributor from 2017 through 2020.
TEX Texas • #3 • Age: 25
Taveras was a top prospect from 2017 through 2021 mostly because of his speed and defense, but the athleticism that's inherent to those traits can translate to other parts of the game if certain skills are unlocked. To that end, it sure seems like Taveras has figured out what to do at the plate. His strikeout rate, which was up over 30 percent early in his career, is now practically half that, settling at 18.4 percent Sunday. He's making hard contact more consistently and hitting the ball to all fields, resulting in a .302 batting average that's backed up by a 93rd percentile xBA (.295). He didn't really settle into the Rangers lineup until mid-April but is nonetheless performing at a near 20-20 pace. At this rate, he looks like one of the most under-rostered players in Fantasy.