Fantasy baseball pickups: Why now is the time to add Dylan Cease

Dylan Cease has started to show improvement as a strike-thrower. AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

In a season filled with injuries thus far, fantasy managers surely are seeking replacements. Here are three players well worth adding in ESPN leagues:

Dylan Cease, SP, Chicago White Sox

Call this "Wide Range of Potential Outcomes Thursday." It rolls off the tongue, right?

Cease, a top-25 overall and the No. 11 starting-pitcher prospect entering his big league debut season of 2019, possesses the type of high-ceiling promise fantasy managers want in this change-in-an-instant, injury-filled campaign. He has an electric, high 90s mph four-seam fastball that, with polish, will fuel his eventual breakthrough, and a slider that serves as an effective out pitch -- he has thrown it 37% of the time with two strikes this year -- having generated swinging strikes 14% of the time.

Control of all of his pitches is Cease's final obstacle to greatness, and his past three starts alone show it: He poured more than 50% of his offerings into the strike zone in his Aug. 2 and Aug. 12 starts, walking only one of a combined 48 batters, but only 41% on Aug. 7, when he issued five free passes among 20 hitters faced. This is a pitcher in the midst of his adjustment period, but one who is more often than not flashing the ingredients to fantasy success, and even accounting for that, he might yet find his way to top-40 starter Player Rater status come year's end. Certainly he's worth the pickup to find out.

Jordan Romano, RP, Toronto Blue Jays

If you're thinking upside stashes, say hello to Romano, among the strongest such reliever choices currently available in more than 90% of ESPN leagues. His record in 2020 tells a compelling tale as is: 10 appearances, one hit, zero runs, 13 strikeouts, five holds (matching his 2019 total in eight fewer games).

Before we get to the old "regression is inevitable" for pitchers with ERA perfection, check under the hood: Romano, a starter earlier in his professional career, shelved his ineffective changeup and went to a four-seam fastball/slider mix, the former averaging nearly 97 mph this season and the latter generating swings and misses 21.1% of the time, nearly 4% better than the league average. Considering he typically was throwing in the 92 mph range with his fastball as a minor league starter, Romano's transition is well worth notice, especially if you consider he has a 56% ground-ball rate already at the big-league level and has scarcely allowed hard contact at all in 2020.

With only Anthony Bass, who has lesser raw stuff, ahead of him on the depth chart and usual closer Ken Giles dealing with elbow issues, there's potential long-term opportunity here for the Blue Jays, should they choose to make a change. Among current "closers in waiting," Romano is one of the better such choices.

Michael Brosseau, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays

His is a difficult case to make in standard ESPN leagues, as a role-playing infielder for a Rays team that loves to play roles with the daily lineup. To that point: Brosseau has made seven starts in the Rays' 19 games, and all of them have coincided with times that a left-hander was the opponent's starting pitcher.

Still, Brosseau has carved out quite a gig as a lefty-killing, high-in-the-lineup type, slashing .322/.344/.611 with seven home runs in 93 career trips to the plate against them, and his minor league career exhibited similarly elite results against them. It's no wonder, therefore, that he was the team's leadoff man on Tuesday against Boston Red Sox southpaw Martin Perez, and considering that the Rays' American League East competition slots eight lefties into its 20 current rotation spots, there's plenty of space here for Brosseau to have a decent-sized role.

Here's the hook for those of you diligent enough to adjust your daily lineups: Brosseau already has made starts at first base, second base, third base and left field this season, so in addition to his matchups appeal, he might soon qualify at enough positions to be an excellent plug-in for all of your day-off/absent stars at those spots.