steven-kwan.jpg
USATSI

Well, that's it. We already know who the breakout pitcher of 2022 will be. There can be no answer other than Jesus Luzardo after the way he pitched Tuesday at the Angels.

What, you say it's just one start? That we've seen flashes from him before? That we have a whole season still to figure it out? Good points, all, but I submit the following counterpoint:

MIA Miami • #44 • Age: 25
Tuesday at Angels
INN
5
H
2
ER
1
BB
1
K
12

Flashes? Not this time. That, friends and neighbors, is the start of something special.

Consider the surrounding circumstances. Luzardo appears to have made the adjustment we all thought he needed to make to live up to his potential, leaning more on his offspeed stuff. Specifically, he threw his curveball 50 percent of the time in this one, and it was responsible for 12 of his 18 whiffs (on just 76 total pitches -- a ridiculous rate regardless of which ones he's throwing). So yeah, exactly what we wanted to see from him.

But it gets better. The 24-year-old showed up to camp throwing about 2 mph harder than last year and carried it over into his season debut, peaking at 99 mph. If his fastball, which is what's held him back in the past, becomes a weapon in its own right and he's learned to optimize his pitch selection, then we could be looking at a breakthrough of Carlos Rodon proportions.

And to think the Athletics gave up Luzardo for just two months of Starling Marte.

The trajectory would be similar to Lucas Giolito, a former top pitching prospect who saw his ERA climb over 6.00 in his sophomore season before putting it all together the following year. The Marlins seemed like the perfect organization to unlock Luzardo's potential given their recent track record with young pitchers, and now we're seeing it.

Unfortunately, the left-hander is already rostered in 77 percent of CBS Sports leagues, so it would be something of a miracle if he's still available in yours. Adding him is a must if he is -- I've moved him up to 37th in my rest-of-season pitcher rankings -- but if not, there are a couple other pitchers showing early signs of a breakout.

Side note: If you play on some site other than CBS, where he's already 89 percent rostered, check to make sure Alex Cobb isn't available. Like Luzardo, he enjoyed a big jump in velocity in his season debut, potentially unlocking more strikeout potential.

Possible waiver wire pickups
NYM N.Y. Mets • #38 • Age: 27
Rostered
75%
Tuesday at Phillies
INN
5.1
H
3
ER
0
BB
0
K
5
Tylor Megill became one of the first pitchers to make a second start, and it was an important one because it showed his velocity gains (also about 2 mph) weren't just a one-off. He piled up 16 swinging strikes on only 76 pitches against the Phillies for a Jacob deGrom-like 21 percent rate. He has yet to allow a run or issue a walk in his two starts, so at this point, it's hard to see anything but upside, for as much as it may have caught us by surprise.
SEA Seattle • #47 • Age: 24
Rostered
71%
Tuesday at White Sox
INN
5.1
H
4
ER
2
BB
1
K
6
Arguably the most buzzed-about pitcher in spring training, Matt Brash lived up the the hype in his major-league debut, making the White Sox look silly with his cartoonish breaking ball (something in between a slider and curveball), which was responsible for all 11 of his swinging strikes. He threw it 50 percent of the time, and you have to admire a young pitcher who's already learned to rely on his best pitch rather than pure heat (which he also has, topping out at 99 mph). The lack of walks was particularly heartening.
PHI Philadelphia • #30 • Age: 37
Rostered
50%
2022 Stats
SV
2
INN
3
H
1
ER
0
BB
1
K
2
The Cubs have had two save chances so far, the latest coming Tuesday, and they've both gone to David Robertson. In the year of our Lord 2022, that's about as much assurance as we're going to get that a pitcher is indeed his team's closer. The one suggestion otherwise was Robertson working the eighth inning with a one-run deficit Sunday, but it's possible he just needed some work. While we can't be sure he'll hold up in the role at 37 and after three injury-plagued years, he has a successful track record as a closer. Better to invest in him than continue to guess wrong about the Reds' next save chance.
COL Colorado • #9 • Age: 30
Rostered
47%
2022 Stats
AVG
.316
HR
2
OPS
1.142
AB
19
BB
4
K
4
While Steven Kwan's roster rate continues to climb (and rightfully so), the other big riser among hitters isn't rising as quickly even though he potentially offers even more upside. Connor Joe is a plate discipline standout, like Kwan, but with the added perk of playing half his games at Coors Field, where he had a 1.035 OPS in limited action last year. So far this year, Joe is doing just as much damage on the road, having reached base three times in consecutive games with a home run in one and double in the other. He appears to have entrenched himself in the leadoff spot, too.
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #28 • Age: 31
Rostered
44%
Tuesday at Twins
INN
4.1
H
3
ER
0
BB
0
K
5
Jesus Luzardo, Tylor Megill and Matt Brash are dominating the headlines right now, but if you need a stealthier starting pitcher pickup, it's worth pointing out that Andrew Heaney did exactly what we wanted to see in his Dodgers debut. Clearly, they saw potential in the longtime underachiever, bringing him in as a free agent and putting him to work developing a sweepier slider (which Statcast classified Tuesday as a curveball). The results weren't great in spring training, but the pitch seems to have clicked in his season debut, generating nine of his 15 whiffs. That's on only 67 total pitches, by the way, which should have you fantasizing about his strikeout potential once he's ready to go more than four innings.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #65 • Age: 27
Rostered
41%
Tuesday vs. Blue Jays
INN
4.1
H
3
ER
0
BB
0
K
5
Want an even sneaker pickup than Heaney, who at least some analysts were hyping as a sleeper after he signed with the Dodgers? Nestor Cortes went almost completely overlooked even though he had a 3.08 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 10.3 K/9 in nine starts down the stretch. He seemed like something of a gimmick, making good on guile rather than pure stuff, but here he was keeping it going against the most fearsome lineup in the AL. And guess what? The stuff looked a little better, too, his fastball picking up 100 rpm and nearly a mile per hour from a year ago.