It turns out, a week without games was just what the top prospects around baseball needed to prove they were major-league ready. We saw Nate Pearson make his debut Wednesday, and he's going to be followed be a slew of other top options in the next few days, all of whom need to be on Fantasy baseball radars. Especially the pitchers, like Pearson and Spencer Howard, because as The Athletic's Eno Sarris noted Wednesday, there have been nearly five times as many IL trips by pitchers in the first week as there were during the first week of last season.
Pearson probably got snatched up in your leagues by the time he made his debut Wednesday, and Howard remains a viable stash option, though the Phillies may not play for a few more days as they continue to deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 outbreak that struck the Marlins when they were playing in Philadelphia. So, it's hard to say just when Howard will make his debut, but it will be soon.
However, we do know when Royals pitching prospect Kris Bubic will make his debut: Friday night against the White Sox. The Royals already surprisingly called up Brady Singer earlier, and Bubic is an even bigger surprise: The 22-year-old has never pitched above A ball. However, he was dominant in the minors in 2019, striking out 185 with just 42 walks in 149.1 innings, so he might well be ready now. Why waste bullets having him throw in scrimmage games when he can get some real game action now?
The lefty is widely available (rostered in 3% of CBS Fantasy leagues), and with how much the White Sox have struck out this season, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him hit the ground running in his debut. If you need pitching help, and you almost certainly do, Bubic is worth a flier in deeper leagues.
Of course, it's not just pitching prospects getting the call. Before we get a trio of potential new closers and a couple of young players to consider adding on waivers heading into the weekend, here are three more hitting prospects about to make their debut, beginning with one who actually got the call Thursday:
Daulton Varsho, C, Diamondbacks (8%)
Varsho was Scott White's No. 64 Fantasy prospect coming into the season, tagged as a "midseason hopeful" call up, and … well, this would be midseason in a normal year. Varsho hasn't earned rave reviews for his defense behind the plate, and there are concerns he may have to move to another position, but he's catcher eligible now and brings a very enticing skill set to the table, having hit .301/.378/.520 with 18 homers and 21 steals in Double-A last season. If he gets in the lineup regularly, Varsho could be a must-start option even in a one-catcher league.
This one is more speculative, but it's worth noting that Bart has been taking grounders at first base and figures to play there in a scrimmage within the next few days. That kind of flexibility could help him when he inevitably does get called up, something that seems likely to happen within the next week, according to speculation from reporters around the team. Bart played just 22 games above Double-A last season, but with no minor-league games going and Buster Posey opting out for the season, this is an opportunity for the Giants to find out if the heir apparent is ready.
Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox
White Sox director of player development Chris Getz went on the record Thursday saying, "He's pretty close." Uh, turns out what was a bit of an understatement. There was some lip service paid to needing to ensure Madrigal was in the best "position succeed when he gets here," but with the offense scuffling and Leury Garcia unsurprisingly off to an uninspiring start, Madrigal got the call Friday and figures to be an everyday option at second base. The platonic ideal of a punch-and-judy hitter, the only thing Madrigal does less often than strike out (21 in 163 career minor-league games) is homer (four). Madrigal has plenty of speed and a plus-plus hit tool that could help him challenge for batting titles eventually, and that combination could make him a must-start Fantasy option in any format.
WAS Washington • #44 • Age: 33
It sure seems like the Nationals have made a change at closer. Sean Doolittle should have been available Thursday, but after Doolittle pitched in the sixth inning Wednesday, the writing seems to be on the wall here. Hudson got the save Thursday, and now has five strikeouts and only one hit allowed in 3.2 innings. Including the postseason, Hudson has 38 strikeouts in 38.1 innings, with just eight earned runs allowed since joining the Nationals. I'm not quite convinced Hudson will be an elite closer, but of the three guys who seemed to become their team's closer Thursday, he looks like the most sure thing in the role, so he'll be a priority for anyone who needs help at closer.
CLE Cleveland • #99 • Age: 24
On Thursday's episode of the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast, I said Brad Hand may be done, given the 2-mph dip in his fastball velocity this season. That came after an elbow injury that sapped his velocity and effectiveness late last season, so there were already reasons to be concerned coming into the season. Still, I didn't think his job was actually at risk yet. Maybe I was wrong. Karinchak worked a perfect ninth inning in the 2-0 win over the Twins Thursday night, bringing his season line to four innings with no hits allowed, five strikeouts and two walks. Karinchak is the closer of the future here, and the future may be here. Hand had thrown consecutive days before Thursday, so it may not quite be the passing of the guard yet, but he has all the makings of a dominant closer, and that just may have been the audition. I'm adding him everywhere I can.
Nick Goody RP
TEX Texas • #41 • Age: 29
Jose LeClerc may return this season from his shoulder injury, but it won't be anytime soon. He was diagnosed with a Grade 2 teres major strain, an injury that will keep him sidelined for at least four weeks, and possibly much longer. Goody got the team's first save after LeClerc's injury Wednesday, so he's the guy to target in the hope he'll continue to get those shots. Is Goody a dominant reliever? A 3.81 career ERA in 144 innings doesn't suggest so. However, it does suggest he is good enough to get the job more often than not, and that makes him a must-add pitcher in category-based leagues if he is the closer.
WAS Washington • #8 • Age: 22
Kieboom played just once in the Nats first five games, a disappointing sign after an offseason where we thought he might earn a chance to play everyday. However, he started his second game in a row Thursday, going 2 for 2 with two walks, giving him six times on base over the two games. This is what we hoped to see from Scott White's No. 15 Fantasy prospect, and you've got to imagine they won't take his hot bat out of the lineup. If Kieboom keeps hitting, he keeps playing, and here's betting he'll keep hitting.
SEA Seattle • #3 • Age: 25
Sometimes it takes a little while for a prospect to figure it out, and maybe Crawford has figured it out. He was moved into the leadoff spot Wednesday, and responded reaching base four times, and then he led off Thursday's game with a single and a steal. Crawford is a former top prospect and is still just 25 years old, and he's been an on-base machine in the early going. That was part of the package in the minors, so if he's going to keep making contact and walking at this pace, there's a lot to like here in a points league.