How long have we longed to see Jesus Luzardo in the majors?
There was the initial fakeout in spring training that ended with him straining his rotator cuff. Then there was the midseason fakeout that ended with him straining his lat before completing his rehab assignment. Finally, there was the September fakeout when the Athletics didn't include him in their roster expansion.
So now amid reports that he'll finally join the big club Monday, how excited should we be? How much time will he have to earn the trust of Fantasy players? How will the Athletics fit him into a rotation that already includes six pitchers?
That's the biggest question of all, isn't it? We don't really know what role Luzardo is expected to fill. Both Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle and Martin Gallegos of MLB.com have suggested he might be confined to the bullpen, which would seem logically consistent to me. They're choosing to call him up now because Triple-A Las Vegas was eliminated from the PCL playoffs. If they thought Luzardo would be a significant enough contributor to help them secure their own playoff spot, they wouldn't have been so concerned with what he could do for the Aviators.
A few long relief appearances down the stretch just to get his feet wet — maybe that's all he'll get. Or maybe, as some Athletics fans have speculated, he'll take over Brett Anderson's spot and make his first start Wednesday. Sure, Anderson has been a fairly stable option for the Athletics all year, but nobody doubts Luzardo is more talented.
It's a big enough "if" that I can't imagine there's a clearer speculative starting pitcher add to make this time of year. If you need to stream for the week ahead, OK, Luzardo won't meet that need since we don't know what he's doing. But if we come to find out he'll get to make a handful of starts down the stretch, the potential impact is great enough that you wouldn't want your opponent to benefit from it.
So if nothing else, you pick up Luzardo as a defensive measure, just to keep him from falling into the wrong hands. And then, once we have a clearer understanding of his role, you can reassess.
Sean Manaea SP
OAK Oakland • #55 • Age: 29
After returning from a long rehabilitation for shoulder surgery with five one-hit innings last time out, Sean Manaea struck out 10 over seven two-hit innings Sunday. He had 23 swinging strikes -- an amazing number in its own right -- but most impressively is that 15 came on a fastball that averaged less than 90 mph. "I've never seen anybody throw a fastball like his," said his catcher Josh Phegley, who pointed out that a deceptive delivery made the pitch appear faster. Manaea wasn't particularly special before the surgery, when he was throwing harder, but considering he had a handful of similarly dominant outings while rehabbing in an outrageously hitter-friendly PCL, there's enough data to suggest he's onto something.
Johnny Cueto SP
SF San Francisco • #47 • Age: 35
Of course, if you don't want to go the speculative route with Luzardo or the one-start route with Manaea, Johnny Cueto may well be the best two-start sleeper for the upcoming scoring period, which says something about the validity of streaming two-start pitchers in the first place. He has a lengthy track record of success, of course, threw six shutout innings in his final rehab start (in the notorious PCL) and will get to face the Pirates and Marlins right of the gate. But it's his first start back from Tommy John surgery, and if the Giants go the six-man route, keeping rookie Logan Webb in the rotation, Cueto is suddenly making just one start this week. So it's crazy risky, but potentially rewarding.
SF San Francisco • #26 • Age: 31
Prefer something a little more ... boring? Anthony DeSclafani would seem to fit the bill -- and I mean it in the most positive way. Boring can be a breath of fresh air when this year's offensive explosion has seemingly every mid-level pitcher going the boom-or-bust route. Other than the studs, who can you trust? Well, DeSclafani's low-fours ERA is more or less backed up by his xFIP. He has more than a strikeout per inning and has only once given up more than four earned runs in his past 13 starts, most recently delivering a quality outing Sunday. He'll face the Diamondbacks next time out.
Alex Young RP
CLE Cleveland • #46 • Age: 28
So I haven't been giving Alex Young much credit seeing as he's a 25-year-old rookie of no prospect pedigree who throws a high-80s fastball and had terrible numbers in -- get this -- the PCL. Pretty good reasons, right? Well, now 13 impressive outings into his big-league career, it's like he's only getting better, striking out 12 on 20 swinging strikes in eight shutout innings Saturday. He recently tweaked his delivery in the hope of adding more deception and then nerfed the Reds lineup with an assault of secondary pitches. His swinging strike rate for the year is now just behind Clayton Kershaw's. Sure, putting faith in him now is still playing with fire, but that's true of any pitcher you might pick up.
SF San Francisco • #5 • Age: 31
Even though he still has about a .950 OPS in the second half, the Giants, in their infinite wisdom, have taken to sitting Mike Yastrzemski against left-handed pitchers despite his excellent numbers against them, which certainly dampens the enthusiasm surrounding him. He makes for a nice potential fill-in in Fantasy this week, though, with only one lefty on the schedule for the Giants and favorable matchups against the Pirates and Marlins rotations.
Eric Thames 1B
WAS Washington • Age: 34
Eric Thames has been a platoon player from the start and hasn't merited much rest-of-season attention as a result, but when the rest of the season is only three weeks, the focus shifts to the short-term. He'll get to start six of the Brewers' seven games next week against some especially hittable pitchers in the Marlins and Cardinals rotations and just homered for the sixth time in his past 69 at-bats Sunday, batting about .304 with an OPS around 1.000 during that stretch.