Thursday will be a day to race to the waiver wire after one of the game's top prospects -- No. 6 overall on Kiley McDaniel's preseason top 100 -- made a successful big league debut the night before. If your roster is in need of some new talent, consider adding any or all of the three names below.
He'll probably be the most-added player in ESPN leagues by Thursday evening, having already been claimed in 55.1% of leagues in the morning. Pearson is a definite "go get him," a hard-throwing right-hander who could be the Blue Jays' best-performing fantasy pitcher (yes, even ahead of Hyun-Jin Ryu). Pearson's powerful fastball/slider combo was evident with the first batter he faced: He started Trea Turner off with a 95 mph fastball and concluded with a pair of sliders, inducing Turner swings and misses.
Any rookie pitcher is subject to adjustments, and Pearson's velocity and command can occasionally waver. He tends to build up velocity deeper in starts, so first-inning struggles might be in his immediate future. But he's capable of exceeding 100 mph with his four-seam fastball -- he averaged 96.1 with it on Wednesday -- and has a capable, high-80s changeup.
Here's why the velocity matters: In 2019, opponents batted .223 with a .285 wOBA and 13.7% swinging-strike rate at pitches clocked 98 mph or faster; the league's averages were .252, .320 and 12.1% on all pitches thrown. Velocity is also important because it makes a pitcher's secondary offerings tougher to guess in subsequent pitches. The league's rates on the pitch after one thrown 98-plus mph were .201, .274 and 16.6%.
Orioles players have been effectively forgotten this year; Renato Nunez was the only one drafted within the top 250 overall, and he was merely 239th on average in ESPN leagues. But every team provides opportunity, and Hays' is a golden one.
He has been the team's leadoff hitter in all four games thus far, a role likely to continue, considering his .286/.327/.508 career minor league hitting rates and above-average defense in center field, things that already make him one of the most valuable players on a rebuilding team. The Orioles aren't likely to win many games or, more importantly, generate many runs or turn their lineup over five times a night, but Hays' role practically assures him at least four plate appearances a game. That carries weight in fantasy when you're talking about a player with average-to-good, five-category ability.
All Hays has done in 25 games since his September 2019 promotion is bat .280/.355/.500 with four home runs, 14 RBIs, two stolen bases and 14 runs scored. Most projection systems expect a .250 batting average, eight homers and four steals the rest of the way. I'd bump those up to .260-.270, with a chance at 10/5 numbers.
Here's another case of a player from a forgotten team, and in Turnbull's case, he's probably overlooked because his most notable "accomplishment" as a big leaguer thus far is that he was the majors' leader in losses (17) in 2019. Despite the run-support problems -- which still exist -- he managed a 3.29 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 21.2% strikeout rate in 16 starts prior to his June 27 outing, which was shortened by the shoulder issues that bothered him for much of the remainder of the year.
Turnbull's 2020, however, has been notable for beneath-the-radar promise: He allowed one run in 11 innings of spring training work, tossed an intrasquad gem on July 16, showed a slight increase in four-seam fastball velocity in his first regular-season start (94.1 mph, on average), had been clocked as high as 96 mph during summer camp, and generally drew raves from team staff. This is the kind of pitcher you should take a chance on in deeper-than-standard leagues, especially those that don't put a premium on the wins category.