MLB: New York Mets at Atlanta Braves
Brett Davis / USA TODAY Sports

One of my favorite recurring bits on the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast is quote Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park when talking about teams that have playing time crunches: "Life, uh, finds a way." 

Usually that means that injuries, underperformance, or some other unforeseeable-but-predictable event will open things up more than we expect – as we saw with the Reds going from a totally crowded roster to just enough players for just enough spots like they have now.

But, the raptors are checking the fences for weak spots, too. Sometimes, you can't hold back a monstrous, terrifying force but for so long. That's the other way a playing time crunch can resolve itself, and we might be seeing that in Baltimore with Colton Cowser

Cowser was the big standout from Thursday's action, crushing a pair of homers en route to a 3-for-5, four-RBI game. He had four hard-hit balls in this one, and now has 10 RBI while starting the past three games for the Orioles. He had started just two of the first nine games for the Orioles, but after going 6 for 13 with four extra-base hits during the series against the Red Sox, it might be impossible for the Orioles to put the toothpaste back in the tube – we've moved on from a saurian metaphor to a dental one, sorry. 

I don't know if Cowser is going to keep playing everyday for the Orioles, but I do think you probably need to add the former first-round pick everywhere he's available, just in case. He has 30-homer, 10-steal upside if he does play everyday, and obviously Baltimore is a pretty tremendous lineup to be a part of – hence why it's taken him so long to break into it. 

I'll also be looking to add Blue Jays pitcher Yariel Rodriguez, who is expected to join the team this weekend. I don't know what role he's going to fill, but I think there's at least a chance they turn Bowden Francis' spot in the rotation over to Rodriguez, who struck out 10 in 6.1 innings across two starts at Triple-A. He's not fully stretched out, having thrown just 102 pitches across those two starts, and he hasn't started full time since 2019-20 when he was pitching in Cuba, as he was mostly a full-time closer when he pitched in Japan.

But he showed a four-pitch arsenal in Triple-A and had 13 swinging strikes on 47 pitches in his most recent outing, so I'm excited to see what he looks like against major-leaguers. I don't expect him to take the league by storm the way Garrett Crochet and Jared Jones have done, but he's an intriguing, unproven arm who could end up being a big priority on the wire if he impresses. If you have a roster spot to play with and want to shoot for some upside, consider a flier on Rodriguez.

Here's your weekend viewing guide: 

What to watch this weekend

Just give us a reason to be optimistic …

Max Fried, Braves @MIA, Friday – He's been dreadful in both of his starts so far, with 10 earned runs allowed in five innings of work. I haven't lost faith in Fried, but I'm going to start to if he doesn't show us something. 

Brandon Pfaadt, Diamondbacks vs. STL, Friday – Pfaadt opened the season with a solid start, and he does have 13 strikeouts to just one walk in 10.2 innings, which is nice. Still, if he gives up a bunch of hard contact to a struggling Cardinals lineup, it might be time to give up. 

Triston McKenzie, Guardians vs. NYY, Saturday – McKenzie has six walks to four strikeouts in the early going, with just 12 swinging strikes in nine innings of work. I don't want to give up on him, given how good he was in 2023, but if he struggles again, it might be time to drop him. 

Gavin Stone, Dodgers vs. SD, Saturday – Stone hasn't been nearly as bad as he was last season, and the 27% strikeout rate is especially promising. However, he was such a disaster last season that I'm not sure how much of the benefit of the doubt he deserves at this point. I'd be more likely to hold him through another bad start than I am McKenzie, but he's gotta show us something after getting through just three innings last time around. 

Brayan Bello, Red Sox vs. LAA, Sunday – I kind of think Bello might be a bit of a buy-low candidate, because while he has just 11 strikeouts in 15.1 innings so far, he does have a very strong whiff rate with both his changeup and slider. If that starts to turn into strikeouts, he could really take off with how he keeps the ball in the yard. I'd love to see that from him this weekend. 

DL Hall, Brewers @BAL, Saturday – I expected a velocity dip as Hall returned to a full-time starting role, but his 92.4 mph fastball velocity so far is downright pedestrian, as his 12.2% whiff rate. It'd be one thing if he was still getting strikeouts or was limiting walks, but neither has been a strong suit. He might be pitching for his spot on Fantasy rosters this weekend, in a revenge game against the Orioles, a tough spot to be in. 

Still worth rostering?

Sean Manaea, Mets vs. KC, Saturday (81%) – Manaea is off to a terrific start, with one earned run in 11 innings. And, with increased sweeper usage and a new cutter, it might be for real. But, given his lengthy and pretty underwhelming track record, it definitely won't take much for Fantasy players to lose interest. 

Cristopher Sanchez, Phillies vs. PIT, Friday (78%) – Sanchez's breakout last season was fueled by a big step forward in control, but he walked three with just one strikeout in his second outing, a big step forward. I'm not ready to drop him, necessarily, but a repeat of his first outing, where he struck out eight with one walk would be really welcome. 

Jack Flaherty, Tigers vs. MIN, Sunday (78%) – Back in spring, Flaherty was throwing harder than he had since 2019, when he was a Cy Young contender. But he hasn't been able to sustain that, with his velocity through two starts only 0.3 mph up from last season. And that 5.25 ERA is even more ugly when you realize his two starts so far have come against the White Sox (good start) and Athletics (terrible start). He needs a good one against a very beatable Twins lineup. 

Luis Severino, Mets vs. KC, Friday (73%) – The thing I need to see from Severino in this start more than anything is an effective slider. He's thrown it just 12.3% of the time so far and has a paltry 22.2% whiff rate with it. That was once an elite pitch, and I just don't see how he can succeed consistently without it. He certainly didn't last season. 

Mackenzie Gore, Nationals @OAK, Saturday (71%) – The results don't look much different this year than they did last, but as I've written already this week, I think there's a lot of interesting stuff going on under the hood with Gore. Let's hope he can ride that improved fastball and changeup to his first quality start of the season after falling short in his first two outings.

Spencer Turnbull, Phillies vs. PIT, Saturday (59%) – Turnbull has a new sweeper, and he's using it 33% of the time to great effect in the early going. I don't really buy his hot start, but it'll grow increasingly hard to write it off with another good performance. 

Time to buy in? 

Javier Assad, Cubs @SEA, Sunday (47%) – The Cubs are going to have some decisions to make with their rotation when Justin Steele (hamstring) and Jameson Taillon (back) are ready to come back, and Assad might be pitching himself into their long-term plans. He's kind of doing that kitchen-sink thing in the early going without one go-to whiff pitch, but if he puts up a third straight good start, it's going to be hard to ignore him even in the leagues where his SPaRP eligibility doesn't give him extra appeal. 

Andrew Abbott, Reds @CHW, Saturday (45%) – With Nick Lodolo back from the IL this weekend, Abbott has added pressure to pitch effectively. He isn't getting the strikeouts he did last season, with his curveball and sweeper both sporting whiff rates below 15% so far. Given his flyball tendencies, he probably needs to be closer to a 30% strikeout rate than a 20% one to be successful, and his current mark is at just 17.8% through two starts.  

Max Meyer, Marlins vs. ATL, Saturday (43%) – Edward Cabrera and Braxton Garrett are on the verge of returning from their shoulder injuries, the Marlins are about to have some decisions to make with their rotation. I don't know if those will be particularly difficult decisions, but with Meyer likely facing some kind of innings limit after missing last season coming back from Tommy John surgery, he might need to force the Marlins to keep him in the rotation – which means he probably needs to find a way to get strikeouts with a pitch other than his slider, which has accounted for six of his seven through two starts. 

Jordan Wicks, Cubs @SEA, Friday (37%) – Wicks is garnering a miss on 37% of swings against his four-seamer so far, which is especially impressive since the pitch only comes in at 92.6 mph. That's helping fuel his massive strikeout rate through two starts, and if he can keep that up, it's going to be tough to keep him out of the rotation. 

Ryan Feltner, Rockies @TOR, Friday (5%) – Alright, so I don't really believe in Feltner in any real way, especially since he pitches half his games in Coors Field. But he did just have a 10-strikeout performance against the Rays at home, and I think we have to take notice of that kind of performance. He has the eighth-highest swinging strike rate in baseball right now, including the fourth-lowest in-zone contact rate among starters. If he does anything like his last outing again, we're going to have to at least consider him as a viable Fantasy option away from Coors. 

Marco Gonzales, Pirates @PHI, Saturday (5%) – It's been a pretty long time since Gonzales was Fantasy relevant, but let's not forget that four-year stretch from 2018 through 2021 when he had a 3.88 ERA and 1.21 WHIP and was very useful for Fantasy. He's throwing his fastball around 1.5 mph harder right now than he did last season and focusing more on his cutter, which has led to pretty solid results in the early going. I'm not expecting that to continue, but if it does, we'll have to take him a bit more seriously as a streamer.