If you wondered what the hype surrounding Spencer Strider was all about, hopefully you get it now.
The Nationals were utterly helpless against him Wednesday. They knew what was coming but could only flail at it sheepishly before retreating to the dugout, seemingly embarrassed to have made the attempt. He even made Keibert Ruiz look like he was swinging with his eyes closed, and that guy always puts bat to ball.
The transition to the rotation may have been a bumpy one, his first start marred by sloppy defense and his second one by five walks. But he followed up those two starts with a brilliant one and now a breathtaking one. If he's somehow still available in your league, thank your lucky stars and remedy the issue posthaste.
ATL Atlanta • #99 • Age: 24
Yes, the hype is real. Spencer Strider's fourth start was his most impressive yet. He was so precise with his fastball that the Nationals had no choice but to swing at it, often hilariously, which goes to show how effective of a pitch it is. It sits at 100 mph. It spins like crazy, making for a pronounced "rising" effect. He pairs it with a slider that drops out of existence. The end result was 11 strikeouts on 24 swinging strikes over 5 2/3 one-hit innings, and I suspect this is my last chance to write about him as a potential waiver claim. The guy is crazy talented and should be rostered everywhere.
TEX Texas • #44 • Age: 31
Given how Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson have emerged as Fantasy mainstays in recent weeks, it's easy to forget that Andrew Heaney was the Dodgers' initial pitching success story this season. They introduced him to a new breaking ball, the sweeper, in spring training, and he really took to it in two starts, the latest being a one-hit, 11-strikeout effort against the Reds on April 17. A shoulder injury knocked him out thereafter. Fortunately he's looked just as dominant in three rehab starts, striking out 19 while allowing six hits and one walk in 12 1/3 innings. With Walker Buehler sidelined for the long haul, there's room in the rotation for Heaney even with Gonsolin's and Anderson's emergence, and word is he could make his return Sunday.
ATL Atlanta • #23 • Age: 21
Seeing as he's the youngest player in the majors, growing pains were to be expected for Michael Harris, but in only three weeks on the job, the 21-year-old has already tweaked his stance to bring out more power, holding his hands in front of his chest rather than above his shoulder. The results speak for themselves. He hit his first two home runs on back-to-back days Monday and Tuesday and is batting .433 (13 for 30) with the two homers, a triple and three doubles over his past eight games. His average exit velocity is up over 90 mph during that time after hovering near 86 mph previously. He's begun stealing bases. He's kept the strikeouts in check. He looks like a worthy pickup in all formats.
Luke Voit DH
WAS Washington • #34 • Age: 31
On Tuesday's episode of the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast, host Frank Stampfl asked Chris Towers and me if we'd rather pick up Luke Voit or Nate Lowe. I chose the latter, citing Voit's bloated strikeout rate and some changes to Lowe's launch angle. I may have erred in that judgment. The case for Voit is, of course, track record -- he led the majors in home runs in 2020, after all -- and his performance Wednesday is the clearest indication yet that he's close to recapturing that form. He went 3 for 5 with a homer and two doubles after also homering and doubling Tuesday. All five of those extra-base hits were in excess of 100 mph, and he's again wearing out right-center field like he did in his heyday with the Yankees.
Nate Lowe 1B
TEX Texas • #30 • Age: 27
Nate Lowe entered Wednesday's game batting .352 (25 for 71) with six homers and a 1.069 OPS over his past 18. What's interesting is that his average exit velocity and hard-hit rate have only decreased during that time. The launch angle, however, has improved. Specifically, his ground-ball rate is just 38.3 percent, and the reciprocal changes to his line-drive and fly-ball rates seem to have made all the difference. It suggests that Lowe's recent surge may be less a hot streak than the natural result of some necessary swing changes. Hitting the ball hard has never been the problem, so putting it in the air more could be the solution.
STL St. Louis • #33 • Age: 26
Brendan Donovan wasn't supposed to be a big-ticket item when the Cardinals tasked him with replacing Paul DeJong in early May, much to the chagrin of everyone who was already stashing Nolan Gorman. He performed so well, though, that even with Gorman in the fold, Donovan has continued to play every day, picking up eligibility at first, second, third and the outfield in addition to shortstop. That alone makes him a handy player in Fantasy, as does him having more walks (21) than strikeouts (20). Ultimately, though, it's his line-drive swing and all-fields approach that make him relevant in a Luis Arraez sort of way, particularly with him going 7 for 9 in his past two games.
CHW Chi. White Sox • #49 • Age: 32
All-everything closer Liam Hendriks just went on the IL with forearm strain, which means there are saves to be had in the White Sox bullpen. Kendall Graveman would be the most logical choice to inherit them. He spent some time last year closing for the Mariners and has spent his time this year setting up for Hendriks. Of course, he's been a bit shaky, his ground-ball approach resulting in more hits than a year ago. It's also not clear that Hendriks will be sidelined for long, with the White Sox setting an initial timetable of three weeks. That's an optimistic outlook, given the nature of the injury, so Graveman is certainly worth picking up. But you'll need to temper your expectations for him.
PHI Philadelphia • #58 • Age: 28
Even more than Tanner Houck of the Red Sox and Kendall Graveman of the White Sox, Seranthony Dominguez might be the preferred saves target on the waiver wire right now. Corey Knebel blew another save in his first game back from what's been deemed a mild shoulder issue, and whether or not the injury had anything to do with it, manager Rob Thomson says he's seen enough. Thomson didn't officially elevate Dominguez to the role, and it's possible he splits save chances with left-hander Brad Hand in the beginning. The right-hander's numbers are positively scintillating, though, and he does have some closing experience, having saved 16 games as a rookie in 2018.
Jarren Duran CF
BOS Boston • #16 • Age: 26
Jarren Duran is back with the Red Sox, and just like for those two games when Jackie Bradley was on paternity leave two weeks ago, he was immediately inserted as the leadoff hitter Wednesday, drawing a walk and scoring a run. Clearly, the Red Sox think he's well suited for that ever-important role, which makes it all the more surprising that he doesn't have a permanent roster spot yet. This time, he's replacing Christian Arroyo, who tested positive for COVID-19, and Enrique Hernandez is also out with a strained hip flexor. Duran will hopefully have some runway, in other words, and if he seizes the job, he'll be of some use in batting average and especially stolen bases.
ATL Atlanta • #11 • Age: 28
Chris Towers recently highlighted some potential waiver wire replacements for folks who lost Ozzie Albies to a broken foot. One he didn't mention, though, is Albies' direct replacement in Atlanta, Orlando Arcia, who's 6 for 8 with two home runs and a walk in his two games filling in at second base. His year-to-date numbers are strong as well, as is the data underlying him. The 94.7 mph average exit velocity stands out in particular. Of course, it's over a small sample -- Arcia was a sparsely used bench player prior to Albies' injury -- but he's a former top prospect who's still only 27. He also hit 17 homers in just 74 games at Triple-A last year, showing considerable power for the first time. Add the promising lineup context, and there may be something here.