The purpose of this column is to suggest players to add, but in order to add someone, you of course need to drop someone. And in the interest of getting more bites at the apple, you may feel tempted to drop someone you just added, particularly when that someone appears to take an immediate step backward.
Hear me now and hear me clearly: Do not give into that temptation with either Jesus Luzardo or Tylor Megill. I understand they disappointed us Tuesday, but they're still among the most obvious breakout cases at starting pitcher.
Let's not forget Luzardo struck out 12 over five two-hit innings last time in what remains one of the top pitching performances so far. His velocity is still up nearly 2 mph from a year ago, he's still making better use of his secondaries, particularly the curveball, and he still has three excellent spring training starts to point back to. This latest outing serves as a reminder he's not a finished product and can't be trusted for consistent ace production just yet, but he's still showing an improved skill set after having plenty to work with already. Here's predicting better results next time out.
Megill, meanwhile, had impressed in two outings rather than just one, and it was largely due to him picking up 2 mph on his fastball, peaking at 99. His velocity was back down to last year's levels in this latest outing Tuesday, which would be cause for concern except that the decline was similar for Max Scherzer and Logan Webb, two of the other pitchers who worked in the doubleheader between the Mets and Giants on a particularly cold day. Megill doesn't necessarily need the improved velocity to factor in Fantasy seeing as he generated some interest even last year, but given the unusual circumstances of Tuesday's start, there's no reason to believe it's suddenly gone.
So you won't be dropping either of those two, but perhaps there's someone else you'd consider dropping for one of these six.
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Josiah Gray SP
WAS Washington • #40 • Age: 24
I'm not as all-in on Josiah Gray as I was on Jesus Luzardo and Tylor Megill (not to mention Andrew Heaney and Nestor Cortes) when the time came to add them, but he offers interesting strikeout potential with a pair of plus breaking balls and has put together two nice starts in a row. My hesitation is that he was one of the league's most homer-prone pitchers as a rookie last year and still has only about a 30 percent ground-ball rate this year. The sort of contact he allows could result in serious damage, in other words, so if you have to miss out on this one, it's not the end of the world.
WAS Washington • #21 • Age: 29
Tanner Rainey picked up another save Tuesday, giving him all three of the Nationals' so far. It's reasonable to call him the closer, then, and finding someone who's entrenched in that role is of particular value at a time when closing tandems are increasingly the norm. There's no telling whether he keeps the job, of course. He did have a 7.39 ERA last year, though health was an ongoing issue. He's gotten an elite rate of swings and misses so far, which is notable given that he had a 2.66 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and 14.2 K/9 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Tommy Pham LF
CIN Cincinnati • #28 • Age: 34
The overall numbers are still dreadful because of a 1-for-26 start, but Tommy Pham is beginning to pick up the pace, homering in back-to-back games. The quality of contact has been high, and he remains a threat on the base paths while still delivering enviable strikeout and walk numbers. He also gets to play half his games in Cincinnati, which helps those bat skills play up in a way San Diego didn't the past two years. It wasn't so long ago we considered the 34-year-old a must-start across-the-board contributor, and I wouldn't rule out a return to that form.
KC Kansas City • #17 • Age: 30
I'm skeptical Hunter Dozier will ever match the numbers he put up in 2019, when the juiced ball was at its juiciest and he slashed .279/.348/.522 with a career-high 26 home runs. He has had trouble staying healthy since then, so we can't completely rule out a return to form. So far, he's barreling up the ball like never before (a nearly 15 percent rate) and has cut his strikeout rate in half. In fact, Statcast suggests his numbers to this point should be even better than they actually are. It's of particular interest because he's eligible at third base, the position with the least to offer, but again, I'm skeptical.
KC Kansas City • #63 • Age: 28
Adding another one Tuesday, Josh Staumont has now recorded back-to-back saves for the Royals, with presumed closer Scott Barlow setting up for him both times. Barlow was used against the heart of the order in the first of those, and it seemed like manager Mike Matheny simply wanted his best reliever in the highest-leverage situation, regardless of the inning. But in this one, Barlow faced the bottom of the order. Staumont had the tougher matchups, as if the ninth inning belonged to him either way. He got a shot to close even before Barlow last year, but a bout with COVID impacted his availability. He's back to throwing 100 mph this year and may be an even more attractive pickup than Tanner Rainey.
Aaron Hicks CF
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #31 • Age: 32
Aaron Hicks was a player I really liked going into last year. He was well past Tommy John surgery by that point and ready to pick up where he left off as an on-base specialist with usable power and speed. Unfortunately, he was slow out of the gate and then ended up missing most of the year with a torn tendon sheath in his wrist. Perhaps I was just a year too early. Our first clue was that the Yankees didn't bother to upgrade in center field in the offseason, and sure enough, Hicks is back to doing those things he used to do, walking at an elite rate with just enough power and speed to matter.