So Spencer Howard didn't get the storybook debut Sunday. It happens.
It might actually be good news from a waiver wire standpoint because it means less competition for his services. He remains available in nearly half of CBS Sports leagues, and well, there shouldn't be any doubting the talent. There were glimpses of it even as he allowed four runs on seven hits, including two homers, in his 4 2/3 innings against the Braves.
His fastball — which is considered his best pitch, earning a 70 grade from Baseball America — wasn't reaching its peak velocity and didn't account for a single swinging strike, and yet he still had 11 on 81 total pitches for a rate (13.6 percent) that would have placed him the top 12 among qualifiers a year ago. The whiffs came on both his slider and changeup, demonstrated a well-rounded secondary arsenal, and he issued just one walk, throwing nearly 70 percent of pitches for strikes. Given the enormity of the moment — the culmination of a dream basically a lifetime in the making — the poise Howard showed was admirable and would suggest he's sticking around for the long haul.
More than anything, though, you take a flier on him because he had a 2.03 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 11.9 K/9 between three stops last year, making him a potential game-changer at a position of constant need if he can meet his upside right away. And the very fact they let him throw 81 pitches in his debut says he'll have the leash to even during this wacky season.
We broke down all the weekend developments on the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast. Follow all our podcasts and subscribe here.
Here are some other players standing out on the waiver wire ...
BOS Boston • #17 • Age: 30
Nathan Eovaldi has had a mediocre career throwing nothing but hard stuff, which is what made reports of his newly developed curveball so interesting back in spring training. He finally turned it loose Sunday, throwing it nearly a quarter of the time, and the new look seemed to elevate the rest of his arsenal, as evidenced by the 10 strikeouts on 19 swinging strikes.
TEX Texas • #48 • Age: 29
Sure, he recorded a save on back-to-back days fresh off the IL, but in these days of closer committees and undefined bullpen roles, we can't just assume Rafael Montero is now the Rangers closer. Good thing manager Chris Woodward outright said he is. With a 97 mph fastball and a 2.48 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 10.6 K/9 a year ago, he should fare fine in the role.
HOU Houston • #59 • Age: 26
The swinging strikes didn't really match up with the strikeouts in Saturday's gem, but Framber Valdez's bat-missing skills are secondary to his ground-ball skills, which might be the best in all of baseball. Control has been the only shortcoming for an otherwise optimal skill set, but a breakout remains distinctly possible.
ATL Atlanta • #62 • Age: 24
Touki Toussaint's GIF-worthy curveball finally paid dividends Thursday, accounting for seven of his 15 swinging strikes during a remarkably efficient start in which he had thrown just 66 pitches through six innings. Between it and a nasty splitter, the stuff will play for this overdue prospect if he can keep throwing it over the plate.
SD San Diego • #47 • Age: 30
Manager Mike Matheny continues to pay lip service to a by-committee approach, but as typically happens in these situations, roles are beginning to form nonetheless. Former Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal is still throwing triple digits, has yet to walk a batter, has only worked high-leverage situations so far, and recorded a save on back-to-back days this weekend before getting Sunday off.
Matt Kemp DH
COL Colorado • #25 • Age: 36
Everyone wants to see more of the young players, but Matt Kemp still has a big enough bat to do real damage at Coors Field and appears to have locked up the everyday DH job, starting eight of the team's past nine games. He only fell out of favor the past couple years because of his defense.
TOR Toronto • #34 • Age: 34
Since upping the use of his splitter a few years back, Matt Shoemaker hasn't stayed healthy for long enough to show us how it'll play, but things couldn't have gone much better when he threw it 40 percent of the time in his most recent start. Eight of his 17 swinging strikes Sunday came on that one pitch, and as much of a strike-thrower as he is, he'll be going six-plus with regularity.
MIA Miami • #24 • Age: 30
As surprising as Jesus Aguilar's 35-homer, 108-RBI season was in 2018, his decline last year wasn't totally supported by the data. Perhaps, then, his hot start this year reveals which season was actually the fluke. You might miss out if you don't buy in now.