Of all the notable pitching performances from the weekend, two in particular stand out.
Patrick Sandoval took his biggest step yet toward stardom, striking out 13 over 8 2/3 one-hit innings Saturday against the Twins. His changeup was responsible for 13 of his 21 swinging strikes and is quickly emerging as one of the best in all the majors. You can see it in action here:
The outing was Sandoval's third straight of seven-plus innings, and in only one of his 11 starts has he allowed more than three earned runs. He has a 3.22 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 10.2 K/9 across those 11 starts (his overall numbers made slightly worse by a few relief appearances early on). Most impressive of all, though, is that his 16.3 percent swinging-strike would be the second-best in baseball if he had the innings to qualify.
Yet somehow, he's rostered in just 46 percent of CBS Sports leagues. Frankly, it should be twice that many.
Touki Toussaint's success, meanwhile, has spanned only two starts, which makes his 38 percent roster rate easier to understand. His latest was a seven-inning, 10-strikeout effort at the Phillies on Sunday. His stuff played up better than in his previous start, highlighted by a GIF-tastic splitter and curveball.
The previous outing against the Padres was impressive in its own right, though. He allowed one run on three hits over 6 2/3 innings, striking out five. Combined with his last two outings at Triple-A Gwinnett, where he was rehabbing a strained shoulder, he has a 1.40 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and 11.6 K/9 over his past four starts. A simplified delivery may be to credit for his breakthrough if it's indeed legit.
"Basically it's just pick up the leg and throw the ball," he told The Athletic. "In the past I was, like, spinning, like going toward the first-base side. Now I'm more linear, so it's up and to home plate."
A former first-round pick by the Diamondbacks, the 25-year-old has always had a GIF-worthy arsenal. If he's finally learned how to harness after all the fakeouts of the past, he could break through in a big way. He may not be a must-add like Sandoval is, but anywhere you're looking for upside at starting pitcher, Toussaint is worth a shot.
Here's who else made a case to be added this weekend ...
Joey Votto 1B
CIN Cincinnati • #19 • Age: 38
How is it that a former MVP and future Hall of Famer continues to be so overlooked? You may have thought Joey Votto was washed up, but after another home run Sunday, his ninth since returning from a fractured thumb June 8, he's now slashing .297/.404/.538 during that 41-game stretch. His season numbers are a little lower, sure, but he was one of the more notable underachievers, according to Statcast, before suffering the injury. He's more than just must-add at this point; he's must-start.
CHW Chi. White Sox • #25 • Age: 23
From the old to the young, Andrew Vaughn has gone into overdrive for about that same stretch of time Votto has, though without an injury to mark the start of it. In 33 games dating back to June 15, he's batting .318 (35 for 110) with six home runs and a .926 OPS while striking out at just a 17.6 percent rate. He has been making quality contact throughout his rookie season, with a hard-hit rate similar to teammate Jose Abreu, and is now beginning to see results. He's 9 for 17 (.529) over his past five games, homering and doubling four times.
Akil Baddoo CF
DET Detroit • #60 • Age: 23
For the first couple weeks of this season, Akil Baddoo made regular appearances in this column. But then the strikeouts began to pile up and the production largely vanished, which began a two-month period of him mostly selling out for contact. It worked well enough. On May 2, he had a 45.2 percent strikeout rate. Since then, he has a 20.4 percent strikeout rate. And now, with him homering four times in his past nine games, the power is beginning to show up again. He's still sitting more often against left-handers than I'd prefer, but the 22-year-old is otherwise looking like the complete package again.
CLE Cleveland • #24 • Age: 24
If you've had trouble getting a read on Triston McKenzie, you're not alone. His return from the minors this month has been just as confounding. He struck out nine over seven one-hit innings in his first start back July 9, but then allowed five earned runs over four innings the next time out. And then came this latest outing Sunday in which he piled up 16 whiffs, including six on the fastball, six on the curveball and four on the slider. One thing the three starts had in common is that he issued one walk in each, which was the key to his turnaround in the minors. At this point, his stuff probably merits another roll of the dice.
NYM N.Y. Mets • #53 • Age: 32
Lucas Sims is gearing up to return from the elbow sprain that has sidelined him for about a month, but at this point, why would David Bell turn back to him as the closer? It's not like he was lights-out in the role anyway, and Heath Hembree has given the Reds the stability they've lacked at the back end of the bullpen all season. Sure, his season-long numbers are as shaky as Sims', but in 11 appearances this month, he has seven saves, a 1.69 ERA, a 0.75 WHIP and 13.5 K/9. I can't promise what Bell will do next, but it's time to take Hembree seriously as a closer candidate.
ARI Arizona • #12 • Age: 25
So far in his big-league career, Daulton Varsho is batting .195 with a .661 OPS, but he was a bat-first prospect in the minors and has hit .313 (25 for 80) with nine home runs and a 1.118 OPS in 18 games for Triple-A Reno just this year. And now, getting to play more consistently with Stephen Vogt out of the picture, we're beginning to see him round into form. Prior to Sunday's 1-for-4 performance, he put together four straight two-hit games, homering in the last three. He has more upside than the typical catcher and should get more at-bats, too, splitting his time in the outfield.
STL St. Louis • #48 • Age: 27
You may have already prejudged Harrison Bader as a defensive specialist and nothing more -- I know I did -- but in between an IL stint for a fractured rib, he has been surprisingly productive, most recently going 6 for 11 with two homers and a double over the weekend. Turns out he had surgery in the offseason to remove polyps from his nasal passages that were interfering with his vision at the plate, and just like that, his strikeout rate has been cut in half from a year ago (16.2 percent vs. 32 percent). Now, he looks like a potential five-category player.
LaMonte Wade RF
SF San Francisco • #31 • Age: 27
A two-homer game Sunday shined a light on just how productive LaMonte Wade has been as a Brandon Belt fill-in for the Giants. He's been easy to dismiss since he was pretty much just playing against righties, but that's begun to change in light of his recent success. He's a disciplined hitter who makes consequential contact, rarely putting the ball on the ground. He's also capable of moving to the outfield whenever Belt returns.