It's fair to say Triston McKenzie has figured things out.
He was a mess earlier this season, failing to live up to his impressive 2020 debut while walking 39 in 42 1/3 innings. It got him sent to the minors and dumped to the waiver wire in most Fantasy Baseball leagues. In eight starts since returning, though, he has issued just eight walks in 49 innings -- a full about-face. Here's how the rest of his numbers look during that time:
Home runs did him in a couple times, skewing the ERA, but as you can see from that WHIP, he's been near unhittable in addition to walking nobody. In fact, with his latest seven-inning gem Saturday against the Angels, he has allowed a combined three hits in his last two outings, spanning 15 innings. He's been missing more bats, too, striking out 19 between those two starts. His 13.1 percent swinging-strike rate since returning would suggest there's more where those came from.
In other words, he's looking every bit like the pitcher who got us so excited last year and has rapidly improved his outlook from lost cause to speculative pickup to near must-start.
But first, check and make sure he isn't available in your league, as he is in more than 25 percent.
Let's see who else you might consider adding from this weekend ...
Tyler Naquin LF
CHW Chi. White Sox • #46 • Age: 32
He's having a huge month of August, clearly, and this weekend alone (Friday included) saw him hit three homers, three doubles and a triple. It's easy to write off Tyler Naquin since so much of this year's production has been confined to April and August, but overall, he's batting .268 with 18 homers and an .816 OPS, with Statcast data that mostly backs it up. He appears locked in as the Reds center fielder and is looking at an extremely favorable September/October schedule that includes the Pirates three times, the Tigers, Cubs and Nationals.
KC Kansas City • #43 • Age: 26
It goes a little against convention, but I'm actually going to make an argument against adding Carlos Hernandez, especially as compared to some of those further down this list. He does throw hard, averaging 97.4 mph on his fastball, but his latest start was only his third with double-digit swinging strikes -- and it came against what's basically a Triple-A lineup at this point. He does have a 2.05 ERA over his past five starts, but between the low ground-ball rate and suspect strikeout rate, he's pushing a 4.50 xFIP. I do think regression is coming.
TOR Toronto • #25 • Age: 27
It may surprise you to see how well Daulton Varsho has performed since the start of July, though perhaps it shouldn't given that he's the fifth highest-scoring catcher in points leagues during that stretch. In some ways, it's an upset he's only fifth, but playing time has been an issue. He has started just eight of the past 16 games. There's an easy remedy, though, given that he's also capable of manning the outfield. He could be a real standout if his recent production earns him more at-bats down the stretch.
Brad Keller SP
KC Kansas City • #56 • Age: 28
His latest outing Friday was Brad Keller's sixth quality start in his past eight -- a stretch during which he has put together a 3.35 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 9.3 K/9. Those numbers are more in line with the career 3.50 ERA he had at the start of the year than ... whatever was going on the first three months. His fastball is back to sinking now that he's fixed his mechanics, and his slider is coaxing more swings and misses than ever. If he remains more or less on schedule, his matchups the rest of the way could look like this: Mariners, Indians, Orioles, Twins, Mariners again, Tigers and Twins again.
Scott Barlow RP
CLE Cleveland • #58 • Age: 31
Who knows if Scott Barlow is actually the Royals closer now? Mike Matheny has kept us guessing all season, and it seems unlikely he'd revert to more conventional roles, particularly with more or less the same personnel, here in the 11th hour. But Barlow has registered each of the Royals' past two saves, both coming in a span of four days, and has been the team's finishing pitcher in each of his past six appearances. That's enough to take a shot on him in leagues where saves are scarce.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #65 • Age: 29
Having spent most of this season working in relief, buildup has been an issue for Nestor Cortes since his move to the starting rotation in early July. But after going six innings for the first time last time out, he went seven in his latest start over the weekend, which means the only remaining consideration is whether or not he's, you know, good. And while the swinging-strike rate is pathetic and the fly-ball rate serious cause for concern, there's a reason he has a 2.56 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 9.6 K/9. He's so darn crafty, keeping hitters guessing by mixing up his delivery, and his 2.70 xERA speaks to that. By now, he deserves some benefit of the doubt.
Nicky Lopez 2B
CHW Chi. White Sox • #8 • Age: 28
The stolen bases are the critical number here. Nicky Lopez has eight in his past seven games, making him a perfect 18 for 18 on the season. The Royals are known for enabling base-stealers during an era when most teams don't, and Lopez appears to be the latest beneficiary. If it continues, he could be highly impactful in a category where a little goes a long way, but of course, he'll need to keep hitting for it to happen. He kind of profiles as a poor man's Nick Madrigal at the plate, so it's distinctly possible. His contact hitting stood out even more than his base-stealing ability in the minors, in fact.
Jake Meyers CF
HOU Houston • #6 • Age: 27
Though he hit .343 (93 for 271) with 16 homers, 10 steals and a 1.006 OPS at Triple-A Sugar Land before getting called up at the trade deadline, Jake Myers didn't really get a chance to contribute for the big club until just over a week ago, when Kyle Tucker was first sidelined for COVID-related reasons. Well, you see how that's going. The production is backed up by an elite average exit velocity and hard-hit rate. My interest mostly hinges on whether he'll keep his job after Tucker returns, but seeing as Meyers has been the one manning center field, Chas McCormick could easily go to the bench instead.