John Means, SP, BAL
Means allowed just one hit across 7.0 shutout innings in Boston on Friday afternoon. The southpaw gave up a leadoff single to Kiki Hernandez to start the game, then allowed just one more baserunner (via error) the rest of the outing. He struck out five and retired the last 18 batters he faced. After two decent but unremarkable seasons in the Big Leagues, the 27-year-old is looking to make that next step here in 2021. Means isn't a huge strikeout guy (career 7.44 K/9), but he limits baserunners (2.00 BB/9, 1.11 WHIP) and is hard to barrel up. He has a 6.6% Barrel% and 28.5% Hard% in his career; the league average for those statistics in 2020 was 7.6% and 33.3%, respectively. Means is at a stage in his career where he could leap into true Ace territory, and if he doesn't, his middling numbers (career 15-15 record with a 3.83 ERA) shouldn't be a massive detriment to your fantasy squad. He is currently owned in just 34.2% of ESPN leagues.
Trey Mancini, 1B/OF, BAL
Mancini went 1 for 3 in his first game since being diagnosed with colon cancer in April of last year. He added a walk and a run in the contest. The 29-year-old is cancer-free and will look to build on the career year he had in 2019. He hit 35 homers, drove in 97 runs, and slashed .291/.364/.535 that season. The Orioles offense hasn't been much to get excited about the past few seasons. Still, with promising youngsters like Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle in the fold, Mancini may have enough around him to put up some real numbers. Everybody loves a good comeback story, and hopefully, Mancini is one of those here in 2021.
Austin Meadows, OF, TB
Meadows went deep for the second time in as many days on Friday night in Miami. The homer was once again a solo shot, and he finished the night 1 for 3 with a walk. After impressing over the first two seasons of his career (.290 avg, 39 HR, 782 PA), Meadows fell off a cliff in 2020, hitting just .205 with four homers in 152 plate appearances. The youngster just was not the same hitter last season, his K% was up 10.7%, and his O-Swing% (+4.4%) and SwStr% (+3.6%) also ballooned. This season's early success should help ease owners' minds about 2020 being the fluke, not 2018 and '19.
Ryan Yarbrough, SP, TB
Yarbrough hurled 5.2 scoreless innings on Friday night against the Marlins, but some ineffective bullpen work kept him from getting the Win. The big southpaw allowed four hits, walked zero, and struck out three in the contest. He was lifted after giving up a 2-out double in the sixth inning, ending his night at just 65 pitches. The 29-year-old has improved in each of his first three seasons coming into 2021. Yarbrough's 3.56 ERA a season ago was his best year-end finish to date. What's more impressive is that Yarbrough's O-Swing% and SwStr% have improved in each season since entering the league in 2018, climaxing at an impressive 40.6% and 13.3%, respectively, in 2020. Despite those high plate discipline percentages, Yarbrough is still not a strikeout pitcher (7.11 K/9 in 2020); however, he is tough to barrel up (5.8% Barrel%), and he keeps the ball out of the air (29.3% FB%) and in the park (.81 HR/9).
Dallas Keuchel, SP, CHW
Keuchel gave up six runs, three earned, in four innings of work on Friday night in LA. The White Sox offense gave Keuchel a big 7-1 lead, but he gave up a 3-run homer to Albert Pujols in the 4th and was pulled without getting the five innings needed to qualify for the Win. He struck out four and walked a pair in the contest. The 33-year-old posted the lowest ERA of his career in 2020 at a tidy 1.99 mark, and he did so with his lowest K-rate (5.97 K/9) since his rookie year. Keuchel's success last season came from not giving up home runs; his .28 HR/9 was the lowest in the majors for qualified starters. That number is why his xFIP (3.98) was so much higher than his ERA in 2020. The veteran southpaw will almost certainly not get as lucky with the longball this season, but even if that number does climb, he should be able to produce for his fantasy owners...Just don't expect the dominant sub-3.00 ERA pitcher we saw in Keuchel's heyday.
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