MLB: Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels
Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA TODAY Sports

If you have Juan Soto or Pablo Lopez on your roster, Thursday seemed like a very, very bad day for you. But it might not have been as bad as it all seems.

We'll start with Lopez, who had yet another dreadful performance, giving up seven runs over four innings against the Yankees. Lopez's stuff was fine, but his command was way off, and he walked six batters in this one, his most ever in an MLB start. Lopez's season ERA is up to 5.45, and predictably, I got plenty of comments on Twitter about how he's a fraud, he's finished, he's droppable, etc.

And I remain mostly unworried. It's been a terrible start to the season for Lopez, but it's worth keeping things in perspective: It's really just been five bad starts. Those five bad starts have made him one of the biggest disappointments in Fantasy, of course, but the point is that two months just isn't a very long time. Blake Snell, of course, was even worse last season before turning it around, and even Lopez had a similar stretch last season, posting a 5.48 ERA from April 22 through June 19; he would go on to close out the season with a 3.03 ERA over his final 17 starts. 

Lopez hasn't been as sharp as last season, of course, and his whiff rate is down on his sweeper, changeup, and curveball, so I'm not saying there's nothing to be concerned about here. But I am saying that Lopez has earned the benefit of the doubt, absolutely should not be dropped, and might be the single most obvious sell-high candidate in baseball. Whether he should be ranked as a top-10 SP right now is a fair question – I still had him there in my Thursday Trade Values Chart update, for what it's worth – but I do expect Lopez to be a must-start pitcher and an absolute difference maker moving forward. 

And now we move on to Soto, who left Thursday's game with what was called "left forearm soreness." We are extremely short on details at this point – Aaron Boone only said he would have more testing in the coming days – which led to a ton of panicking Thursday night, especially when it was reported that Jasson Dominguez was removed early from his minor-league rehab game Thursday. Were those two news items related?

Not exactly. Dominguez was playing center field, and as part of his rehab, he has been pulled from games where he plays the field early, which is, by all indications, what this was about. He would have been pulled regardless of Soto's status. 

Now, that doesn't necessarily mean Soto is fine. It just means that, as of now, there's no reason to assume this is a serious injury, and there's little value in speculating. If you have to make a waiver-wire add before we know the extent of Soto's injury, by all means, put a claim in for Dominguez, who could be a difference-maker for Fantasy when he gets the call, one way or the other. But as of Thursday night, there's no reason to panic.

We'll know more by the weekend, hopefully, and if Soto's injury does end up being serious, Dominguez is going to be a major priority on waivers Sunday night. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Let's not panic over something that hasn't even happened. 

Time to panic? 

George Kirby, Mariners @KC, Sunday – It certainly hasn't been an outright disaster of a season for Kirby, but a 4.05 ERA one-third of the way through the season isn't what anyone expected to see. It's not like there's an obvious explanation for his struggles – his quality of contact is about the same as last season, and he's getting more strikeouts without risking his elite walk rates. What's interesting about Kirby's season so far is that his worst pitches have been his slider and splitter, two pitches many highlighted could fuel a breakout. That hasn't been the case so far, with his worst expected wOBA among his arsenal and pretty middling whiff rates. This is one situation where a pitcher might be best off sticking with his fastballs.  

Kevin Gausman, Blue Jays @OAK, Saturday – Gausman's velocity isn't far from where it was a year ago despite his spring training shoulder injury, but he just hasn't been right this season. There have been a few brief flashes of his former ace form, but Gausman hasn't had more strikeouts than innings pitched in consecutive starts since early May. He's pitching in the strike zone right around as often as he typically does and generating swings at roughly the same rate as last season, but his whiff rate has fallen from 28.9% last season to 25.1%, and he's giving up significantly worse quality of contact with his fastball and splitter, a bad combo. He's tried mixing a sinker in more lately, and while that pitch has had good results, he hasn't leaned on it more than 20% of the time in any start yet – given his struggles, maybe that's a potential answer to look into?  

Shota Imanaga, Cubs @CIN, Sunday – My biggest question with Imanaga even when things were going well was how he would look when the weather warmed up and the ball started flying a bit more. He's a flyball pitcher who pitches in the strike zone a lot, but when those fly balls are turning into harmless outs, there's nothing to be concerned about. But it's been an issue over the past few starts, and while I'm certainly not panicking, I am wondering where he regresses to. Is he a low-3.00s ERA pitcher with a plus strikeout rate? That's my assumption – think Joe Ryan, hopefully without the second-half meltdown from last season. But I do think there's a world in which Imanaga's struggles continue and he settles in more as a frustrating mid-to-high-3.00s ERA guy. Surviving a start in Cincy without an ugly line would make me feel a bit more confident about his chances of surviving the summer. 

Bailey Ober, Twins @PIT, Sunday – Ober added a cutter to his arsenal this offseason, and it's been a pretty good pitch for him, sporting a .284 xwOBA against. The problem is, as Nate Schwartz noted a few weeks back on, Ober seems to have lost the feel for his fastball. He's throwing it in the strike zone more often and generating fewer chases when it's out of the zone, leading to a collapse in his whiff rate and significantly worse results on contact than a year ago, with his xwOBA jumping from .306 to .432. That's a disaster, obviously, though whether we can ascribe his fastball's struggles to his new cutter is a different story. If he can spot his fastball a bit better, Ober could potentially be even better than last season, but at this point, he's gotta give you some reason to keep him around before we even talk about that.

Still worth rostering?

Kutter Crawford, Red Sox @CHW, Sunday (89%) – Crawford's overall numbers still look pretty good, but there's no denying he's in a funk right now, having allowed 20 runs in his past five starts. He's still getting decent strikeout numbers with 30 in 28 innings in that span, but his sweeper is starting to get hit hard, and that's a concern because his increased usage of that pitch was one reason we were so optimistic. It's taken a step backward overall this season, and I worry Crawford might just be a fringe streamer moving forward. A poor start against the White Sox might put Crawford squarely in drop territory. 

Brandon Pfaadt, Diamondbacks @SD, Friday (77%) – Pfaadt's growth this season has mostly come through better results on balls in play, and that's not necessarily a fluke – his expected wOBA on contact has fallen from .391 to .330, a significant improvement. If he can keep that up, he can remain Fantasy relevant, but that feels like a pretty significant if for a guy who struggled so badly to keep the ball in the yard last year. He really only has one whiff pitch, his sweeper, and he's also allowed five of his seven homers with it so far this season. Pfaadt feels like he's balancing on a knife's edge, and if he has another poor start, he might be droppable. 

Taj Bradley, Rays vs. BAL, Saturday (68%) – I want to believe in Bradley. The stuff is so impressive, as his 19.7% K-BB% rate for his career shows. The problem is what happens when he's not getting strikeouts, as his .438 career expected wOBA on contact shows – the league average in that regard is .369, for context. He's given up five homers on his four-seamer alone, and until he shows the ability to command his pitches better it's going to be more of the same. There could be a point where the light switches on and Bradley dominates, but if he doesn't start to do that this weekend, he's an easy drop. 

Ben Brown, Cubs @CIN, Saturday (60%) – It's not entirely fair to say Brown is a one-pitch pitcher – after all, he has technically thrown eight changeups and two sweepers, to go along with his four-seamer and curveball. But given his 92.9 mph average exit velocity and .421 expected wOBA with his fastball, his curveball is really the only thing he can rely on right now. There's big strikeout upside here, but I'm not sure there's enough else. 

Time to buy in? 

Frankie Montas, Reds vs. CHC, Sunday (45%) – Montas' most recent start was a weird one. Pitching in Coors Field, he leaned heavily on his otherwise little-used slider and had his best start of the season. Did that unlock something for him? I'm pretty skeptical that's going to be a pathway to success for him moving forward, but it was interesting to see – that slider has been a pretty good swing-and-miss pitch in the past for him, so maybe prioritizing that over his pretty mediocre cutter could unlock something for him. It's something to watch here. 

Ryan Weathers, Marlins vs. CLE, Friday (55%) – The Guardians have the sixth-best wOBA against left-handed pitching this season, so I wouldn't be terribly surprised if Weathers struggled here. It's a tough matchup, and he certainly hasn't been a model of consistency so far. But he struck out 11 in his most recent start, with 26 over the past three while allowing five runs, so we know there is upside here. Weathers is armed with two huge swing-and-miss pitches in his changeup and sweeper, and if he thrives against this matchup, I'm not sure what the case against adding him everywhere would even be. 

Matt Waldron, Padres vs. ARI, Saturday (72%) – Knuckleballers are baseball's equivalent of a random number generator, but one thing that has been frustrating about Waldron is how his knuckleball usage fluctuates from one start to the next. He dominated two starts ago while throwing it a career-high 55% of the time, and then went back to throwing it around 37% of the time in his most recent start. It wasn't a bad start by any means, but if Waldron is going to find sustained success, it's going to be through a knuckleball-first approach. Let's hope that's what we see here. 

Hunter Brown, Astros @LAA, Saturday (56%) – Brown has had three pretty good starts in a row, including 16 strikeouts to one walk over his past two. He still has issues with command from time to time, but Brown has found success lately by leaning less on his four-seam fastball, which has been hit pretty hard this season. His splitter's development has been a big deal, and he found a lot of success with his curveball the past couple of starts. 

Adam Mazur, Padres vs. Diamondbacks, Sunday (11%) – Mazur's debut earlier this week was a weird one, because he walked four batters in his six innings of work, after walking just nine in 51.1 innings in the minors. I'm not 100% convinced that Mazur is going to be a difference-maker at the MLB level, but that he made it through six innings in his debut despite dealing with some out of character control issues. If he gets that under control, he could be a pretty useful Fantasy option, though likely not a different maker.