The call-up was quiet. The debut was loud.
Triston McKenzie — a forgotten prospect after losing all of 2019 to a back/shoulder issue — offered no hints as to the progress he had made since then. We're given little insight into what's happening at minor-league camp. What we thought we were getting, then, was an underdeveloped prospect pushed into this moment by the unfortunate actions of Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac — one who would struggle to go even four innings and likely be sent down immediately afterward.
What we got instead was this:
The final line was one run on two hits with one walk and 10 strikeouts in six innings. He got 17 swinging strikes on his 80 pitches, most on a fastball with impressive rising action and the ability to sneak up on hitters because of his long reach.
The analysis for a debut like that is almost too easy: Pick him up. He remains available in more than half of CBS Sports leagues, which is ludicrous given the demand for reliable starting pitching right now. Anytime a pitcher shows an inkling of potential, he's a priority pickup, and what we have in McKenzie is a three-time top-100 prospect showing more than just an inkling.
The only hesitation would be the possibility of him getting bumped from the rotation if and when Clevinger and Plesac return, but president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti has already promised McKenzie another start. If he dominates then, too, it'll be next to impossible to pull the plug.
The sparkling debut makes McKenzie by far the most attractive pickup from the weekend, but here are some others demanding to be added ...
MIA Miami • #73 • Age: 22
It wasn't as flashy as McKenzie's, but Sixto Sanchez looked polished in his debut, needing just 66 pitches to make it through five innings while throwing his slider and changeup each about a quarter of the time. You could see how that arsenal, which is highlighted by a triple-digit fastball, could yield more whiffs in time, but even if he's more of a ground-ball specialist as a rookie, he figures to be a steady contributor.
BAL Baltimore • #6 • Age: 23
You shouldn't get used to the walks, but the hits are well within Ryan Mountcastle's skill set, which yielded a .312 batting average, 25 homers, 35 doubles and .871 OPS at Triple-A Norfolk last year. The offensive profile is something like Nick Castellanos -- the Tigers version, anyway -- and makes the 23-year-old an obvious pickup if you need first base help (with outfield eligibility on the way).
MIL Milwaukee • #39 • Age: 26
Ahead of Sixto Sanchez in the pickup pecking order -- and perhaps even ahead of Triston McKenzie -- is Corbin Burnes, who continued to pile up swings and misses in his start at the Pirates Sunday, his second straight of five-plus innings. He's able to handle a starter's workload even after getting bumped to the bullpen for a while, and though the walk rate is a little concerning, the stuff, highlighted by a cutter that he's emphasizing more and more, has been nearly unhittable.
SD San Diego • #9 • Age: 26
Now that Jake Cronenworth is indisputably an everyday player, having started the Padres' last three games against lefties, what he's doing deserves more recognition. You might presume his .347 batting average and .627 slugging percentage are too good to be true, but the expected stats -- namely, a .402 xBA and .751 xSLG -- suggest he's underachieving ... by a lot. He's also triple eligible, qualifying at first base, second base and shortstop.
SF San Francisco • #21 • Age: 23
Another rookie who saw his first extensive action over the weekend, Joey Bart has doubled in three of the first four games he has played. Seeing as he was the second overall pick in the 2018 draft, it goes without saying that the Giants' new starting catcher has big upside, and at a position with little upside to be found, his immediate contributions should have him in high demand. Are we so home run-oriented that we're uncompelled to act until we see one?
Alec Bohm 3B
PHI Philadelphia • #28 • Age: 24
We finally saw a home run from Alec Bohm, his shot Sunday carrying 446 feet to straightaway center field, so maybe now we can fully appreciate what a successful first couple weeks he's had. The top prospect has been as advertised, showing discipline beyond his years while reaching base at a .462 clip, so I don't know what the excuse would be for passing him over.
Emilio Pagan RP
SD San Diego • #14 • Age: 29
Emilio Pagan has gotten off to a shaky start with the Padres, but let's not forget he had a 2.31 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 12.3 K/9 in 66 appearances (mostly as a closer) for the Rays last year. So now that he's poised to handle the ninth inning again with Kirby Yates and Drew Pomeranz both sidelined by injury, I'm willing to bank on him turning things around, especially with him recording his first two saves with relative ease.
MIA Miami • #57 • Age: 25
Elieser Hernandez has shown flashes of potential in the past, including a four-start stretch last June with a 15% swinging-strike rate and a nine-strikeout effort last September, but now he's beginning his season with one, boasting an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio while generating whiffs at a 13% clip. His slider appears to be a legitimate weapon, and it's worth pointing out he had a 1.13 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 12.9 K/9 over nine starts in a hitter-friendly Triple-A environment last year.