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Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jakob Junis raised some eyebrows at the end of the 2017 season, boasting an increased strikeout rate and a 3.61 ERA in the final two months. It wasn't enough to put him on many draft boards in shallow fantasy baseball leagues this past March, but his first start in 2018 has some fantasy owners wondering if they dismissed his 2017 improvements too quickly.

Junis cruised through seven scoreless innings on Tuesday afternoon in Detroit, throwing just 87 pitches, walking one batter, allowing three hits, and striking out six Tigers. The Royals only managed to provide him one run, but it held up, getting Junis his first win of 2018.

His impressive outing in the frigid Michigan air might deserve some further inspection to see if there's more to Junis than a spark in the pan.

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Big Things Ahead?

His best pitch, without a doubt, is his nasty slider, which he throws about 30% of the time. In fact, it's more like 35%, because the so-called curveballs that register on MLB.com and Fangraphs.com are actually slower variations of his knee-buckling slider. He throws different variations of his fastball too, and the four-seamer and sinker combo makes up about 60% of his pitches, while a change-up makes up the other 5%.

Before we get too excited, we have to remember that the Tigers have one of the worst lineups in all of baseball this season, and it showed on Tuesday. Outside of a few line drives that were hit right at well-placed Royals, it seemed like Detroit never even wanted to be in the batter's box. However, Junis used his slider to induce a swinging strikeout three times (twice against Miguel Cabrera), and he also racked up 10 swinging strikes on the afternoon. The command was impressive with all of his pitches, and the efficiency speaks for itself when you recall that he threw just 87 pitches through seven innings.

Junis' downfall will ultimately come when he's unable to get ahead of hitters and locate his fastball well. He threw 76% of his first pitches for strikes on Tuesday, which helped him use his slider whenever he wanted, keeping batters off balance. However, if he has to throw his fastball later in counts, the 90-91 mph pitch can easily leak over the heart of the plate. That's when danger can present itself, especially when the righty is not pitching in big ballparks like Comerica. Even still, his home field of Kauffman Stadium is no small field, so he will get a boost from a few more pitcher-friendly venues before the 2018 season ends.

All in all, Junis is a 25-year-old who has a dominant pitch. It would be nice to see a Luis Severino-like change-up along with his fastball/slider combination, but the variety he can provide with those two pitches helps him in tight spots. He's not going to be an ace anytime soon, and he'll likely fall somewhere north of 1.00 HR/9 with less wins than you'd like, but he looks serviceable nonetheless. If nothing else, I'm taking a look at the waiver wire in all of my leagues to see if Junis is available, and may even bid a couple of bucks on him if I'm worried some sharper competition may be eyeing him like me.

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