If you've been playing Fantasy baseball long enough, you've surely got your guys. I don't mean the stars you try to grab in every draft; I mean those guys you're not sure are even good, but who you will defend to your dying breath. Maybe you saw them on their absolute best day; maybe they won you a Fantasy championship. No matter how they entered your heart, you'll always take note of when they succeed.
And two of my guys pitched quite well Tuesday night. The first was Reds pitcher Tyler Mahle, who shut out the Indians over six innings of work, striking out six and allowing just one hit with two walks in his out. The other was Pablo Lopez, who made his season debut for the Marlins, shutting out the Orioles over five innings in a win, with seven strikeouts and no walks.
Sure, both came against easy matchups, and maybe I wouldn't have taken as much notice if these weren't two of my favorite sleepers over the last couple of seasons, but both also really deserve your attention. And I'm not just being biased!
Take Mahle, who has now struck out 10 in as many innings to open the season. He had 13 swinging strikes after having 10 in his debut, giving him a 13.8% swinging strike rate through two starts. That's up from a 9.4% career mark, and it may not be a coincidence; Mahle has brought back his slider after ditching it a year ago, and that's always been his best swing-and-miss pitch.
It's taken Mahle a while to figure it out, but this start is enough to make me take interest. However, I may actually like Lopez even more.
If you listen to the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast, you'll remember Lopez as a member of the "Stallions" my only semi-facetious nickname for the Marlins starters heading into last season. Lopez was my favorite of the group, but despite some flashes, he mostly disappointed.
Maybe that will turn out to be the case again in 2020, but Tuesday night has me buying back in. He needed just 61 pitches to get through five innings, and his 11 swinging strikes — including five on a changeup that looked unhittable — backed it up.
This duo may not be of much interest to you — after all, they're my guys. But what they showed Tuesday makes both worth putting in a low FAAB bid in just in case this is the start of a breakout. I want to believe.
Luis Patino RP
CHW Chi. White Sox • #77 • Age: 24
We've gotta talk about Luis Patiño, as the Padres No. 2 pitching prospect got the call Tuesday. We're hoping Mackenzie Gore isn't far behind, but Patiño deserves plenty of attention on his own coming off a season where he posted a 2.57 ERA with 123 strikeouts in just 94.2 innings as a 19-year-old in High A and Double-A. Patiño has a future as a must-start Fantasy starter ahead of him, but for now, he'll be used exclusively out of the bullpen, it seems. That may just mean as a setup man, but with Kirby Yates off to such a tough start — five earned runs, four walks, six hits in 3.1 innings — maybe Patiño gets a look in the ninth inning. In NL-only leagues, Patiño is a must add, and he's worth a flier if you're speculating on saves elsewhere.
Ryan Pressly RP
HOU Houston • #55 • Age: 34
According to reports Tuesday, Roberto Osuna needs Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. That injury will end his season, and leaves the Astros looking for a closer. Ryan Pressley figures to get the first crack to fill in as closer, and he's got the kind of track record that should make you very confident — he has a 2.50 ERA with 12.4 K/9 over the previous two seasons. If Pressly is, indeed, the Astros' closer, he's a must-add player in all formats, so might as well get ahead of the crowd.
WAS Washington • #47 • Age: 40
Kendrick got off to a slow start, but he made up for lost time Tuesday, going 4 for 4 with a home run and two runs scored. All of a sudden, he's hitting .300 with an .864 OPS after missing a few days with a back injury. That's more like what I expected from Kendrick, who was one of the best hitters in baseball on a per-game basis last season. He's my starting second baseman in more than a few leagues, and you can probably find space for him in yours somewhere.
MIL Milwaukee • #3 • Age: 28
There are more intriguing prospects than Harrison — Jo Adell, for one — but let's not overlook the Marlins' young outfielder. He was the talk of camp, both in spring and then in summer, and surely would have broken camp with the big-league club if not for arbitration concerns. Harrison has trouble with strikeouts, to be certain, but he hit nine homers and stole 20 bases in 56 games last season, which is all Fantasy players in Roto leagues need to hear. He's a stolen base threat with some pop, and that makes him Fantasy relevant. And don't worry: Even when the Marlins get healthy, if Harrison is hitting, he'll stick.