With fewer games on the schedule and the weekend looming, we don't usually like to do our typical look at the waiver wire to kick off the Friday morning newsletter, and we won't today. But before we get to our weekend preview for this week, I do feel the need to highlight Taj Bradley's performance, because he does need to be a high priority whenever your next waiver-wire run is. 

Bradley struck out 11 in seven innings against the Cubs Thursday, and he did so while racking up a whopping 17 whiffs. Bradley has always had incredible stuff, of course, and so far this season, he's showing what it might look like if he puts it all together. After Thursday's start, he's up to 50 strikeouts and just 12 walks in 38.1 innings of work. 

There are concerns about his ability to keep the ball in the yard – he gave up four homers two starts ago and has allowed eight in six starts to date – but if Bradley is going to be this kind of strikeout outlier, those concerns won't matter as much. He's been leaning on his splitter a lot more this season, and he took it to another level Thursday, throwing 38 of them out of 104 pitches and generating nine whiffs on 20 swings. Maybe simplifying his arsenal can help Bradley hit his potential, and I definitely think he needs to be rostered in all leagues (he's 66% rostered right now) just in case this is what it looks like when he figures it out. 

Command and quality of contact remain concerns for Bradley, but there's no point in focusing on that when he's pitching as well as he did Thursday. Maybe it ends up being a flash in the pan; maybe he gives up five homers in his next outing. It's possible. But skepticism is warranted when you're talking about how to value a player for the rest of the season; when we're talking about a player still rostered in fewer than 70% of CBS Fantasy leagues, upside is really all we should be looking for. And Bradley clearly has a ton of that. 

Bradley was one of the biggest standouts from Thursday's action, and the clear top target if available on waivers. We'll get to the rest of the news and performance standouts you need to know about shortly, but first, here's my thoughts on some of the key pitchers to keep your eye on this weekend around MLB

Give us a reason to be optimistic 

Kevin Gausman, Blue Jays vs. CLE, Friday – I genuinely have no idea what to do with Gausman. He's coming off his best start of the season, which was right on the heels of one of his worst starts, which was right on the heels of his best three-start stretch of the season. He's generating less drop with his splitter than last season, and it's not like he was back to normal in his 10-strikeout shutout the last time around – his overall velocity was actually down pretty significantly, and his splitter movement profile wasn't back to where it was pre-2024. Which is to say, I'm still very skeptical that he'll be an ace moving forward, but I'll also point out that it may not take a ton for him to earn that trust back. Another very good start with a bunch of strikeouts and swinging strikes might do it. 

Jesus Luzardo, Marlins @WAS, Sunday – It's actually pretty easy to figure out what's gone wrong with Luzardo: His four-seam fastball, which has never been a great pitch, has lost 1.3 mph and is now a pretty actively detrimental pitch. His changeup and slider are still getting terrific results, but I'm just not sure we can bet on him bouncing back to last year's levels without that fastball being significantly better. So, that's the key thing to watch here – does the fastball velocity return? If not, I'm hoping for a good start so I can try to sell. 

Hunter Greene, Reds @MIL, Friday – It's been a true mixed back for Greene of late. He's still pitching consistently deep into games, getting through six innings in five starts and nine of 13 starts overall, but he's struggled with one or two bad innings to mess up the line. He still has significant strikeout upside, and he's getting better results than ever with his fastball especially, generating a .273 expected wOBA on the pitch – that was .345 a year ago. That new splitter looks like a real weapon, though it remains inconsistent. I think we're seeing a higher-upside version of Greene than ever before, but the results haven't quite been there. I'd love to see him put it all together here for a big game. 

Bailey Ober, Twins vs. OAK, Saturday – Ober has just lost his fastball. Everything else is working pretty well for him, including his new cutter, which sports a .296 expected wOBA so far this season. The problem is the fastball, which has gone from being a genuinely good pitch in 2023 to being an outright disaster, allowing a .425 xwOBA while his whiff rate has dropped from 27.7% to 21.8%. The pitch's movement profile looks pretty similar to last season, so this seems mostly like an execution issue, as he is simply leaving it over the middle of the plate a bit too often. I don't want to give up on Ober entirely when it doesn't seem like there's anything physically wrong with him, but he's got to execute better moving forward, starting this weekend. 

Still worth rostering?

Ryan Pepiot, Rays @ATL, Saturday – ERA is basically the only place Pepiot looks bad right now,  with his 4.17 mark. But that mark is inflated to 5.70 since the start of May, so it's hard to trust him, even though he gets a bunch of whiffs, good strikeout numbers, and generally has very promising ERA estimators. It's hard to lean as much on a fastball for strikeouts as Pepiot does, and while that approach earns him strikeouts, I do wonder if it might not explain why his ERA is inflated. I'm not at all ready to give up on him, but I want some concrete reasons to be optimistic soon. 

Zach Eflin, Rays @ATL, Sunday – The biggest issue for Eflin so far this season has been the precipitous drop in strikeout rate, from 26.5% last season to just 17.5% in the early going here. He has seemingly tried to account for that with increased sweeper usage, but that pitch seems to have lost much of the effectiveness it had when he used it more sparingly a year ago. He's dropped his curveball usage as well, and that might be the bigger issue – that is his best swing-and-miss pitch, but he's throwing it just 18% of the time, compared to 26% of the time last season. He's using it about the same rate as last year in two-strike counts, so the bigger issue here might just be in getting to those two-strike counts. I generally still believe in Eflin, but last year was also a pretty big outlier for his career, so maybe this is just what regression to the mean looks like for him. That might be a mid-3.00s ERA – his xERA is 3.46 right now – but it won't make him the difference-maker he was last season without the strikeouts. 

Hurston Waldrep, Braves vs. TB, Sunday – Waldrep came largely as advertised in his MLB debut: Elite splitter and iffy enough command that it might not matter what else he does well. I believe in the skill set here, as he's armed with a decent slider and high-90s fastball to go along with that splitter, but he is making the leap from the minors to the majors after just one start at Triple-A, and might just need a bit more seasoning. With Spencer Schwellenbach tossing a quality start in his most recent outing, Waldrep might be pitching for his spot in the rotation here. 

Time to buy in? 

Matt Waldron, Padres @NYM, Friday – It feels like you all are just waiting for an excuse to drop Waldron, given his low roster rate despite a now six-start stretch with 39 strikeouts and a 1.78 ERA over 35.1 innings. Knuckleballers are inherently volatile, with maybe one per decade emerging as a consistently useful Fantasy option. But Waldron is locked in right now, and he keeps throwing his knuckleball around 40% of the time in every start, more than he ever had before. It might end at some point, but I feel pretty good about starting him right now. 

Drew Thorpe, White Sox @ARI, Sunday – Like Waldrep, Thorpe pretty much came as advertised in his MLB debut earlier this week: The changeup was incredible, and everything else looks pretty iffy. It worked against the Mariners, but I still find it hard to get too excited about him, both because his personal upside seems questionable and because the White Sox just aren't going to give him a ton of help, either defensively or on the scoreboard. But Thorpe is young and has at least one truly special pitch, so it would be foolish to write him off entirely at this point. Let's see what he can do in start No. 2. 

Hunter Brown, Astros vs. DET, Friday – Given how much he struggled early on this season, skepticism is warranted toward Brown. But he's been consistent as of late with four quality starts in a row and an ERA of just 3.05 since the start of May. There are still some control issues – he walked four in his most recent start – but the strikeouts have been solid, and he's doing a much better job limiting hard contact than either last season or earlier this season. This is a very exploitable matchup, and if Brown thrives yet again, it might be time to buy in – though I do like him as a streamer already. 

Tylor Megill, Mets vs. SD, Sunday – Megill is doing some interesting stuff since his return from the IL, racking up 28 strikeouts in 21.2 innings of work. However, he also has just one quality start in four tries and has struggled over his past two starts, allowing seven earned runs, so this can kind of go either way. Another good start here could make him a fairly high-priority add this weekend; a poor start will likely leave him on the waiver wire in nearly all leagues. 

Simeon Wood Richardson, Twins vs. OAK, Friday – I want to be more interested in Woods Richardson than I am. The results have mostly been very good for him this season, but he hasn't shown much ability to generate swings and misses or strikeouts, which makes it tough to trust. I don't mind streaming him here, but I'd be surprised if Woods Richardson were a long-term answer.