There’s something built into our DNA that we want to be the first to have something.
As a kid, you wanted to be the first of your friends to have Nintendo or the newest pair of Air Jordans. In high school or in college, you wanted to be the first of your friends with a fake ID. As an adult, maybe you wanted to be the first to buy a house or have a kid.
In fantasy, you want to be the first to own the next big prospect. You want to have him on your team before your competition. That next big thing is Toronto’s Nate Pearson, and you should get him while you can.
Pearson made his big-league debut Wednesday, receiving a no-decision after pitching five shutout innings. He allowed two hits, struck out five, walked two and had 14 swinging strikes on 75 pitches (18.7 percent). It was a solid first effort by the 23-year-old, who entered the season as the No. 7 ranked prospect by Baseball America.
Pearson is armed with a fastball that averages 95.6 mph, according to Brooks Baseball, and topped out at 98 mph in his debut. He also employs an 84-87 mph slider, which he used to strike out three of his five victims on Wednesday, and a changeup that sits in the high-80s.
Over three seasons in the minors, Pearson maintained a 2.19 ERA and 0.868 WHIP while striking out 10.7 per nine innings. That includes going 5-4 with a 2.30 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 101 ²/₃ innings over 25 starts in 2019. He also has solid command, walking just 2.3 per nine over 34 minor league starts.
Assuming there are no more unscheduled interruptions caused by COVID-19 (fingers are permanently crossed, though it isn’t doing much good), Pearson is slated to face the Braves on Tuesday and the Red Sox five or so days later. After that, two of his next three starts could come against Baltimore.
Pearson was the eighth-most added player in ESPN leagues as of Friday, and the fourth-most added pitcher — behind Tyler Chatwood, Zach Plesac and Dylan Bundy. Though he remains available in more than 40 percent of ESPN and 35 percent of Yahoo leagues, Roto Rage believes those numbers will rise. He is the best available pitcher, period. As a rookie, he has the stuff to make a difference — even against the potent lineups he will be facing.
Looking for other options besides Pearson? Start with Plesac, who struck out 11 and walked none in his season debut against the White Sox. Of his 98 pitches, 72 were strikes and 20 were swinging strikes. Batters went 0-for-11 against his slider, striking out seven times. The 25-year-old is available in more than 50 percent of ESPN and Yahoo leagues.
Plesac’s teammate Aaron Civale lasted six innings in his first start, striking out nine (34.6 percent), walking one and allowing two earned runs. Despite not having overpowering stuff (fastball averages about 92 mph), he had a 16 percent swinging-strike rate.
Dylan Bundy, the guy who went 38-45 with a 4.67 ERA from 2012-19 with the Orioles, is owned in 80 percent or more at ESPN and Yahoo. Why? After two starts, he is 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA, 15 strikeouts, just 1.42 walks per nine innings, 0.711 WHIP, 14.4 swinging strike rate and a .156 opponent average.
One pitcher owned in less than 20 percent of all leagues to keep an eye on: Detroit’s Spencer Turnbull. The 27-year-old lost 17 games while walking 3.58 per nine innings in 2019, but there are positives — and he showed that in his first start when he struck out 36.4 percent of the batters he faced, largely with a 94-96 mph fastball. He also had a 17.2 swinging strike rate, including almost 11 percent on his fastball.
Sonny Gray, SP, Reds
After his first two starts, he had the third-lowest opponent average (.098) and the third most strikeouts (20). He also has a 0.77 ERA and 0.55 WHIP.
JaCoby Jones, OF, Tigers
Homered three times in his first 22 at-bats while hitting .409 with a 1.367 OPS, six runs scored and six RBIs.
Lance Lynn, SP, Rangers
Though he has walked 13.3 percent of the batters he has faced, he has struck out 37.8 percent and has not allowed a run over 12 innings. Opponents have hit .077 against him.
Kyle Lewis, OF, Mariners
In his first seven games, he was 13-for-29 (.448) with two homers, seven RBIs and a 1.155 OPS. As of Friday, he was the most added player in ESPN leagues.
Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, Braves
Entered Friday hitting .143 (4-for-28) with no homers, no RBIs and a .429 OPS. He was also leading the league with 14 strikeouts.
Charlie Morton, SP, Rays
Lasted just nine innings in his first two starts, allowing eight earned runs (8.00 ERA) and a .342 opponent average. It is a rough start, but he will turn things around with a ridiculously high .407 BABIP.
Christian Yelich, OF, Brewers
The 2018 MVP had one hit (a home run on July 25), 12 strikeouts, one walk and a .220 OPS in his first 27 at-bats.
Lucas Giolito, SP, White Sox
Though righties are hitting .083 against him, lefties are hitting .375 against him in his first two starts. He also has walked 4.7 per nine innings (11.9 percent), and has a 6.52 ERA and 1.552 WHIP.
- Despite striking out 11 times in his first 27 at-bats, Dansby Swanson entered Friday hitting .370 with a homer, 1.037 OPS and nine RBIs, which was tied with Donovan Solano for the most in the NL.
- Allowing no runs, seven hits and one walk over two starts (14 innings) is mighty impressive, but Shane Bieber also struck out 27 (or 54 percent). That is tied with Karl Spooner (1954) for the most strikeouts after two starts since the mound was moved to 60 feet, 6 inches in 1893.
- On the next episode of “Unsolved Mysteries,” the story of 40-year-old Nelson Cruz who, like a fine wine, keeps getting better with age. He entered Friday with three homers, seven runs scored and a league-leading 11 RBIs in his first 24 at-bats.
- Add this to your “That’s so 2020” list: Detroit’s Joe Jimenez entered the weekend leading the league in saves.
Team Name Of The Week
Machado Man Randy Savage