Ronel Blanco ... who knew?

For all the hundreds of names we've pored over the past few months, providing breathless analysis for each, wouldn't you know that the least-discussed pitcher would author what may turn out to be the most impressive start of 2024, no-hitting the Blue Jays on just 105 pitches Monday?

It's a cool story, but we know better than to pursue Blanco in Fantasy ... right?

Maybe we don't. Maybe there's actually something here.

It's not the first time Blanco has piqued my interest, I'll have you know. He first stood out to me as a fill-in starter last July, mainly for his bat-missing ability. During his 52 innings with the big club in 2023, split between starting and relief, he put together a 15.7 percent swinging-strike rate, according to FanGraphs, which would have ranked behind only Spencer Strider among qualifiers. So Blanco was better than almost everyone at the thing that, for me, most signals how good a pitcher is -- and that was before introducing his most-thrown pitch in this no-hitter, the changeup, which was responsible for 10 of his 20 swinging strikes.

"He was able to blend the four-seam/slider, and I think the one thing we weren't prepared for was the changeup," Blue Jays third baseman Isiah Kiner-Falefa said. "He busted out a changeup that he's never really used before. That caught us off guard a little bit and he was able to make pitches in big spots."

Fortunately for us (and unfortunately for Kiner-Falefa), it was all caught on video:

I'll also point out that Blanco flat-out dominated this spring, allowing no runs on six hits with 18 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings. You know which of those numbers stands out most to me? That's right: the lack of hits.

Have I piqued your interest yet?

The one time I can remember mentioning Blanco on the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast this spring was after the Astros had appointed him to fill in for Justin Verlander at the start of the season. I said that he had the potential to be a poor man's Cristian Javier, and what I meant was that his high fly-ball rate and natural bat-missing ability could be enough to overcome his shaky control. The lack of hits could make up for the surplus of walks, basically, and turn Blanco into a viable Fantasy asset despite the lack of prospect pedigree.

But I never imagined this, obviously, and for whatever I thought Blanco's upside might be, his window seemed too small to care in most leagues. After all, he was only intended to fill in for Verlander, who might only miss a couple more weeks with an inflamed shoulder. Blanco is also 30 years old already, so it's not like he's some foundational piece for the Astros. My presumption was that they viewed him as nothing more than organizational depth -- and perhaps they did before Monday night. Now, though? I don't see why they'd prioritize J.P. France over him when Verlander is ready to return. There's more time to figure it out, of course, but it's hard to imagine that France, who indeed has minor-league options, will make a stronger impression than this between now and then.

HOU Houston • #56 • Age: 30
2023 Stats

That's not to say that this start grants Blanco an infinite leash in the Astros rotation. There are reasons he's been stuck in the minors to age 30. His walk rate down there was consistently high, and his fly-ball rate, while serving to limit hits, also made him vulnerable to home runs. For as much as I'm singing his praises now, he's a long-shot play even still. But the point I'm trying to make is that he's not just some bottom-feeder who happened into a no-hitter one day. There was much to like a Blanco even before this start, and now having seen what a weapon his new changeup could be, there's even more to like.

Most of all, the time to act on him is now. He's in all of the headlines. He has the attention of people of like me. He's not slipping past anyone in your league, and you can't win the lottery unless you buy the ticket.

But what can you spare for this lottery ticket, who may go on to have a Jesus Luzardo-like impact or may be back in the minors by the end of the month? You certainly wouldn't want to swap out any of Jack Flaherty, Jared Jones, Garrett Crochet or Gavin Stone, if you were already fortunate enough to grab one of them. Among those who may have been overdrafted in the first place, though, I'm thinking James Paxton, Triston McKenzie, Kenta Maeda and Brandon Pfaadt would be pretty easy to give up. In shallower leagues where upside matters far more than reliability, I'd also be comfortable forfeiting Brayan Bello and Marcus Stroman. Others like Sean Manaea, Yusei Kikuchi, Griffin Canning, Dean Kremer, Jose Quiantana and Jon Gray would be easy enough to let go. Even France himself (72 percent) is rostered in a surprising number of leagues.

Of course, the player you drop for Blanco doesn't have to be a pitcher at all, but the bottom line is that he's worth pursuing during this early portion of the season when we can't be sure which of the early breakout candidates will actually stick. If you want to corral as many as possible, you have to cast a wide net, and this no-hitter rightfully puts Blanco in that discussion.