On a day when John Means announced himself as an ace with a no-hitter (and near perfect game), another left-hander made his pitch to rejoin those ranks.
True, Robbie Ray allowed three earned runs in his six innings of work at Oakland, but for a third straight start, he walked nobody. It's a big development for a pitcher with 4.3 BB/9 for his career, including 7.8 BB/9 last year.
And it's not the only improvement he's made.
- Just how good is John Means? Or Robbie Ray? We break it down on the Fantasy Baseball Today in 5 podcast. You can follow us to get the latest episodes on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
Robbie Ray SP
TOR Toronto • #38 • Age: 29
After two straight starts of reaching 98 mph with his fastball, a mark he hadn't hit since 2016, Ray came close to doing it again Wednesday, topping out at 97.6. His average fastball velocity of 95.3 is his highest ever. Most impressively, he got 21 swinging strikes in Wednesday's start. For as hard as he's been throwing and as much success as he's been having, the whiffs had been lacking. He says he's feeling as good as he did in 2017, when he had a 2.89 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 12.1 K/9, and it might be time to believe him.
PIT Pittsburgh • #10 • Age: 26
Bryan Reynolds' continued availability is looking like anti-Pirates bias at this point. His home run Wednesday represented his sixth extra-base hit in just five games this month, during which he has raised his batting average to .291, and as good as he is at hitting line drives, his 30.8 percent rate ranking fourth among qualifiers, there isn't much reason to doubt it. Statcast gives him a .296 xBA, and he hit .314 as a rookie two years ago. Chalk last year's disappointment up to 2020 weirdness and recognize that the dude just knows how to hit.
Nate Pearson SP
TOR Toronto • #24 • Age: 24
Nate Pearson made his first start for Triple-A Buffalo on Tuesday and certainly looked overpowering, if a little inefficient, making it through just 3 2/3 innings on 78 pitches. What makes him worth picking up now is that the Blue Jays have a rotation opening Sunday, which lines up with his next start. He was expected to make the starting rotation this spring before straining his adductor, and while he disappointed in his first major-league showing last year, he still boasts a 98 mph fastball, a wipeout slider and all the upside in the world.
STL St. Louis • #27 • Age: 25
Tyler O'Neill went hitless for a second straight game Wednesday, but more notable is that he swiped his third base. While it's a skill he showed a little bit as a minor-leaguer, we haven't seen him do much of it in the majors, but Statcast puts his sprint speed in the 99th percentile. If he's going to run in addition to providing light-tower power, you'll want to buy in now. His 33.3 percent strikeout rate is alarming and makes him far from bust-proof, but his quality of contact gives him a .297 xBA and .640 xSLG so far.
CHC Chi. Cubs • #73 • Age: 26
If you had lingering questions about Adbert Alzolay's legitimacy, this sort of outing against the Dodgers, of all teams, should effectively put them to rest. Once again leaning heavily on his newly developed slider, which he's throwing nearly 50 percent of the time, he got 12 swinging strikes on 79 pitches. His season-long rate is up around 15 percent, which is very much elite, and as efficient as he's been, it stands to reason he'll start working deeper into games eventually. Though his season-long ERA is at 4.50 because of a shaky first start, it's accompanied by a 0.88 WHIP.
Tyler Rogers RP
SF San Francisco • #71 • Age: 30
Jake McGee's four-run implosion Tuesday at the Rockies wasn't just a one-off you could attribute to Coors Field. It was his fourth outing in five with at least one earned run, which has manager Gabe Kapler rethinking the closer role, telling reporters Wednesday that Tyler Rogers could see more time in the ninth. The right-hander's submarine delivery gives him so much value as a volume guy that I doubt he becomes the closer outright, instead sharing the role while McGee rebounds, but he's worth a flier just in case.