Let's make one thing clear upfront: if Kenta Maeda is available in your league, he's the starting pitcher to add. He's my for the upcoming scoring period, and as I laid out of Waiver Wire, it's possible he's back to 2020 form.
But I want to talk about somebody new here, somebody who I would have no reason to look into if not for a fellow by the name of Lance Brozdowski. Check out this little tidbit he tweeted out five days ago:
I follow a lot of baseball people, and so all sorts of pitching analysis comes across my timeline every day. But this one stood out to me because I couldn't remember the last time I saw anyone say anything positive about Kris Bubic, a 25-year-old who has been decidedly blah (which is perhaps too generous) since first getting the call in 2020. But Lance spent some time working for Driveline Baseball and seems to have access to information beyond what can be mined off Statcast. I figured, well, maybe he's onto something.
Was he ever.
Kris Bubic SP
KC Kansas City • #50 • Age: 26
So nine strikeouts in six shutout innings is ... different. Dig a little deeper, and you'll see that Kris Bubic had 19 whiffs, setting a career high on just 76 pitches. Analyst Lance Brozdowski, who formerly did some work with Driveline Baseball, pointed out on Twitter days ahead of this start that Bubic was working with a lower release height and improved velocity, and all his stuff was playing up as a result. "Vertical approach angle" I believe is the industry term for the path a fastball takes to the plate, and the left-hander seems to have optimized his. This is as loud a confirmation as you could ask for. He was missing more bats this spring, too, but it went by the wayside given his uninspiring track record. Now, I want as many shares as I can get.
James Outman CF
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #33 • Age: 26
A big minor-league performer who never seemed to make the cut on top prospect lists, James Outman is proving to be a cut above with the big club, having delivered the best barrel rate of anyone with 12 batted balls or more while reaching base at a .457 clip. He's been such a boon to the lineup that the Dodgers actually kept him in against a left-handed pitcher Friday, suggesting there's a chance for full-time duty. The 25-year-old hit .298 with 32 homers, 13 steals and a .990 OPS between the majors and minors last year, and while there are still significant strikeout concerns, it may be that he impacts the ball well enough to overcome them.
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #59 • Age: 29
Given that he delivered a 1.14 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 11.0 K/9 in setup duty last year, the hope was that Evan Phillips would emerge as the lead dog in the Dodgers bullpen committee, and already, it seems to be happening. Not only has he converted the team's only two saves so far (minus those of the three-inning variety) but manager Dave Roberts kind of sort of declared him the closer over the weekend. "Evan is clearly the most consistent performer, versus left, versus right," Roberts said. "So I would say he's probably going to finish more games, close more games than any of our guys now." That's as much of a confirmation as we're going to get, so if you care about saves at all, make Phillips a priority.
Sean Manaea RP
SF San Francisco • #52 • Age: 31
The Giants have kept their rotation plans hush-hush for the most part and shocked us all by having Sean Manaea work in relief the first time through. Well, now it seems like he and Ross Stripling have swapped roles, and early indications are it's for the better. Manaea spent some time working with Driveline Baseball in the offseason and came to spring training throwing his fastball and slider 3 mph harder on average. It didn't seem to make much of a difference in those starts, but he piled up 14 whiffs on just 76 pitches in Saturday's gem. Granted, it was against a Royals team struggling to muster any offense, but it's reason enough to take a flier on this harder-throwing version of Manaea.
Bryce Elder SP
ATL Atlanta • #55 • Age: 24
It's official: Bryce Elder is the Braves' fifth starter once everyone is healthy. OK, so it's not official, but between him, Jared Shuster, and Dylan Dodd, Elder is the only one who hasn't fallen flat on his face yet. And you may remember he was pretty good down the stretch last year, delivering a 1.65 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 9.1 K/9 over his final five starts. In fact, he probably should have been the favorite for the job to begin with. What would really clinch it is if he makes good in his two starts this week, first against the Reds and then at the Royals. The matchups are favorable enough for you to roll the dice on him if streaming is your thing.
SF San Francisco • #26 • Age: 33
That's 2 for 2 for Anthony DeSclafani. His latest outing Sunday against the Royals -- in which he allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings with no walks and seven strikeouts -- offers further evidence he really is the guy who went 13-7 with a 3.17 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 two years ago. He's come back from an injury-plagued 2022 -- one ended early by ankle surgery -- to allow just six baserunners over 12 1/3 innings through two starts. As inconsistent as all levels of starting pitching have been so far in 2023, why not take a shot on a guy just a year removed from being more or less must-start?
Drey Jameson RP
ARI Arizona • #99 • Age: 26
It didn't seem like Zach Davies would be long for the Diamondbacks rotation with some of the young arms they had waiting in the wings, but a strained oblique has already taken the drama out of it. Drey Jameson, who has been kept warm in long relief, will get the first crack at the job. He has a fastball that pushes triple digits but was leaning all the more on his slider out of the bullpen, delivering some impressive whiff rates. There are some warts, such as shaky control and an inconsistent minor-league track record, but the upside is enough to roll the dice on him.
Johan Oviedo SP
PIT Pittsburgh • #24 • Age: 25
While Kris Bubic (regrettably) may not have caught my attention in spring training, Johan Oviedo did. It wasn't just his 24 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings but also the huge number of whiffs he was getting with a slider that was up 3 mph on average. His season debut April 3 was a disaster, but his latest start Sunday against the White Sox offers reason for optimism. Not only did he throw 6 2/3 shutout innings but he also registered 18 whiffs on 89 pitches, including seven on that slider and five each on his fastball and curveball. He's strictly a deep-league play for now, but the Pirates right-hander is someone to monitor in all formats.