At 74 percent, Sean Manaea might be too rostered already to feature so prominently in this space.
But if you were on the fence about adding him in one of the shallower leagues where he's still available, Tuesday's outing against the Twins should be enough to push you all the way over:
That's three quality starts in a row for the left-hander, giving him a 3.04 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 8.4 K/9 overall, but it's not just his production that's improved from a disappointing 2020. His velocity is up 1-2 mph on all his pitches. It's the best it's been since prior to his 2018 shoulder surgery.
So his stuff is much improved, his swinging-strike rate is the best we've ever seen it, and he's taking on the sort of workload that distinguishes the standouts from the also-rans at the starting pitcher position. He may not turn out to be as exciting a pickup as Carlos Rodon, Trevor Rogers and Nathan Eovaldi have been, but Manaea has earned his place on mixed-league rosters.
Danny Duffy SP
KC Kansas City • #30 • Age: 32
Speaking of regaining velocity, the 93.8 mph that Danny Duffy has averaged on his fastball so far is the most since 2016, when he had a 3.51 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 9.4 K/9 and was regarded as an emerging star. The pitch has been overpowering in the early going, which helps account for his three straight quality starts to begin the year and his Trevor Bauer-like 13 percent swinging-strike rate.
SF San Francisco • #28 • Age: 34
We're turning back the clock some more with 34-year-old Buster Posey, who hasn't been a Fantasy standout since 2017 but is already up to four home runs after homering twice Tuesday. His expected stats, according to Statcast, are just as promising as his actual ones, which suggests he may finally be back to full strength after 2018 hip surgery. The only thing keeping him out of my top 10 at the position is that he's been sitting every third game.
Cesar Valdez RP
BAL Baltimore • #62 • Age: 36
The 36-year-old, who surprised just by claiming a roster spot last year, has been steady in the ninth-inning role for the Orioles, striking out three for a four-out save Tuesday, and now has a 1.17 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 9.4 K/9 in 30 2/3 innings between last season, this season and the spring training in between. His chances may be sporadic closing games for the Orioles, which is why I'm not recommending him on the level of the Marlins' Yimi Garcia or the Athletics' Lou Trivino, but he deserves more love.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #55 • Age: 28
Domingo German's early-season demotion was less because of his performance than because the Yankees had enough off days on the schedule to go four-man for a while, and the proof is that he's expected back for a series at Cleveland this weekend. Some early home runs sank him in his first two starts, but the velocity was good, the control plus, the whiff rate exceptional and the pitch mix optimal. There's still something to hope for, particularly after that big spring.
Miguel Rojas SS
MIA Miami • #19 • Age: 32
There isn't much power output in Miguel Rojas' history, and last year's .888 OPS certainly seemed too good to be true. But he has a little more pop than Nick Madrigal, probably, and is looking about as reliable for batting average after a four-hit performance Tuesday, his strikeout and line-drive percentages both rating as elite. And while Madrigal has three stolen bases in 45 games the past two years, Rojas has eight in 55. He's looking like the superior choice for Rotisserie play.
Luis Garcia SP
HOU Houston • #77 • Age: 24
Luis Garcia was needed in a pinch with Lance McCullers being scratched and may ultimately cede his rotation spot to Cristian Javier, but he's doing what he can to keep himself in the mix, not only limiting the damage at Coors Field on Tuesday but also piling up 14 whiffs on 84 pitches. It gives him a stellar 14.5 percent swinging-strike rate in 13 1/3 innings after striking out 168 over 108 2/3 innings in the minors two years ago. He does it with an impressive five-pitch mix, too, which perhaps makes him more promising than Javier.