Welcome to SCFE’s 2018 Week 2 Hot Topics column. If you read last year’s column, welcome back. Thanks for sticking around. If you didn’t read last year’s column, I’m the guy with the weird sense of humor who throws around pop culture references along with Fantasy Baseball analysis. I’ll let you decide if this sort of thing is your bag.
Spring is here, although the weather may not seem like it. It’s been as cold as Seth Gecko putting down his vampire-turned brother Richie in From Dusk till Dawn. Did I mention the pop culture references? There you go.
The first week of the MLB season is in the books, complete with the early-season traditions. Insanely hot starts for some players; cold starts for others; bullpen randomness; and the MLBPA declaring the end of civilization as we know it. Yes, we all know Ronald Acuna got service-timed. But who negotiated and signed off on the CBA that allows this to happen? Just saying.
At this early stage of the Fantasy Baseball season, it’s best to follow the wisdom of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Don’t Panic. You drafted your players for a reason. One week’s results do not make or break an entire season. Call it the Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes Rule.
If you read last year’s column, then you know I introduce topics with quotes from pop culture sources I find entertaining. For this year’s inaugural column, I’m going with the movie Kung Pow! Enter the Fist. If you’ve never seen it, there’s some significant humor missing from your life.
Released in 2002, Kung Pow! Enter the Fist features actor/writer/director/comedian Steve Oedekerk digitally inserting himself into a 1970’s martial arts movie. He also performs the dialogue for all of the characters. Basically, it’s a parody of old-school martial arts flicks, complete with intentionally bad voice dubbing and ridiculous fight scenes.
The movie was repeatedly flogged by critics, but that’s not the point. This demonstrates my Citizen Kane/Independence Day theory of movies. If you want a quality cinematic experience, you should look elsewhere. If you just want to enjoy yourself and laugh out loud, Kung Pow! Enter the Fist is for you.
That’s why we love Fantasy Baseball; because it’s entertaining. Never forget that. If Fantasy Baseball ever turns into work, then you’re doing something wrong. Keeping in mind it’s a smaller sample size than Harrison Ford’s cameo in Apocalypse Now, let’s get started with SCFE’s Fantasy Baseball 2018 Week 2 Hot Topics.
2018 Week 2 Hot Topics
Hot Topic No. 1: “You killed my family. And I don’t like that very much.”
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Kung Pow! Enter the Fist tells the story of the Chosen One, a martial arts master from birth who seeks vengeance for the murder of his family by the evil Master Pain (a.k.a. Betty). The Chosen One is then raised by rodents and parties with desert creatures. Yes, you read that right. Trust me; the Betty thing makes sense when you watch the movie.
This quote from the Chosen One during his ultimate confrontation with Betty best describes Gregory Polanco’s Fantasy Baseball revenge to start 2018.
Gregory Polanco is one of “those guys” for me. We all have them. You identify a player who you think is destined for big things early in his career. Even if the results don’t match the expectations, you keep drafting him. In some ways, this is a quest for personal validation. Fantasy Baseball owners love to say they identified the next big thing before anyone else.
Gregory Polanco was signed by the Pirates as an international free agent in 2009. At 6’ 5”/235 lbs, he almost looks like a football player switching sports. Despite his size, in the minors, he had 40 SBs in 2012 and 37 SBs in 2013. When he was called up in 2014, he was sporting a .328 AVG and .390 OBP in AAA. Like Danny Almonte in the Little League World Series, Gregory Polanco just seemed more advanced than everyone else. Was that too soon?
In 2016, Gregory Polanco posted a .258 AVG/79 R/22 HR/86 RBI/17 SB stat line. Heading into 2017, he was a popular breakout candidate. Like the Matrix Reloaded, however, the follow-up did not match the previous effort. Gregory Polanco finished 2017 with a .251 AVG/39 R/11 HR/35 RBI/8 SB stat line. 2017 Gregory Polanco owners were just waiting for Kelso from That 70’s Show to run up and scream “burn!”
Of course, in 2017 Gregory Polanco made three separate trips to the DL with a strained left hamstring. You think maybe it bothered him all year? He also sported a .272 BABIP, tying his career-low. That’s right; Gregory Polanco was hurt and unlucky in 2017.
Heading into this season, Gregory Polanco had the makings of a bounce-back candidate. Being one of “those guys” for me, however, someone at my auction league draft said, “how much can I make Rubin pay for him this year?” The answer was $15, and I was fine with that.
Even with all the injuries in 2017, Gregory Polanco improved to a career-best 84% contract rate; and had flashes of brilliance when healthy. He was batting .387 in July before the hamstring flared up again. It’s still too early to just give up on him.
So far this season, Gregory Polanco has put up a .265 AVG/.395 OBP/8 R/3 HR/13 RBI/1 SB line through April 10. Considering he didn’t reach those numbers until the end of May in 2017, that’s a good change. Kind of like Tracy Ullman’s character changing her family name to Latrine in Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
Gregory Polanco is still only 26 years old, and he has 20 HR/20 SB potential. He also has true five-category skills, and he should stay in prime position in the Pirates’ lineup. If there’s a non-believer in your league who thinks he’s selling high, Gregory Polanco could be an early-season trade target if you’re looking to shore up your OF.
Hot Topic No. 2: “I rock. And roll. All day long. Sweet Suzy.”
Gerrit Cole, SP, Houston Astros
This quote comes from Wimp Lo, the idiot who was trained wrong as a joke. He also wears squeaky shoes. Gerrit Cole’s start to 2018, however, is no joke. He has rocked and rolled all day long so far this season.
Gerrit Cole was the number one overall pick by the Pirates in the 2011 draft. He had the dominant fastball and the look of a future ace. He was fast-tracked to the majors and was pitching in the big leagues by 2013.
His 2013 debut did nothing to discourage the hype. After being called up in June of that year, Gerrit Cole finished the season with a 10-7/3.22 ERA/1.17 WHIP/100 K stat line in 117.1 IPs. In 2015, Gerrit Cole dominated MLB hitters like the Undertaker just dominated John Cena at WrestleMania 34. He finished that season with a 19-8/2.60 ERA/1.09 WHIP/202 K line in 208 IPs.
The injury bug bit Gerrit Cole several times in 2016, but he was still considered ace-level talent heading into 2017. On the surface, Gerrit Cole’s 2017 performance looked like any of the DC movies before Wonder Woman. You just sort of shrugged and went, “meh.” A 12-12/4.26 ERA/1.25 WHIP/196 K stat line in 203 IPs wasn’t horrible. It’s just that 2017 Gerrit Cole owners expected more.
Beneath the surface, however, the signs were encouraging. The 8.7 K/9 rate and 10% swinging strike rate showed the stuff was still legit, and the 2.4 BB/9 rate showed the control was still solid. The 203 IPs also meant he was fully healthy.
This past offseason, Gerrit Cole was traded to the Houston Astros in the Pirates’ latest partial house-cleaning. Although an NL-to-AL move for a pitcher is never a positive, Gerrit Cole was headed to the world champs.
In his first two starts of 2018, Gerrit Cole has mowed down the competition like Roland mows down the bad guys in The Dark Tower. The books; not the movie. The movie made me sad. Anyway, so far in 2018 Gerrit Cole has posted a 1-0/0.64 ERA/0.71 WHIP/22 K stat line in 14 IPs. Combined with an Astros’ lineup that’s going to score gobs of runs, there’s a lot to like here.
Sometimes it takes players a couple of seasons to take the “leap” after a breakout season. That could be what’s happening with Gerrit Cole. It’s still early, but the skills are unquestionable, and he’s just heading into his prime at 27 years old. Stay tuned.
Hot Topic No. 3: “I need gopher-chucks!”
Mike Foltynewicz, SP, Atlanta Braves
Like the use of gophers as an offensive weapon, the concept of Mike Foltynewicz as a consistent Fantasy Baseball asset might be unlikely. But as Kung Pow! Enter the Fist proves, sometimes the unlikely works. Once again, you read that right.
Mike Foltynewicz is a classic “if he can ever just put it all together” guy. You know the type. A player flashes a great skill set, but it never quite translates into consistent on-field success. But if that player ever figures out how to harness those skills; watch out. These are your quintessential late-round draft flyers.
Drafted in the first round (19th overall) of the 2010 draft by the Astros, Mike Foltynewicz was known for a big fastball with serious swing-and-miss potential. After debuting in the majors in 2014, he was traded to the Braves during the following offseason.
In 398 career MLB IPs, Mike Foltynewicz has 363 Ks. The stuff is legit. The problem is that he’s essentially been Nuke LaLoosh before he learned how to breathe through his eyelids. His BB/9 rate has always been 3.0 or above, which is the danger zone for SPs. The career 1.45 WHIP and 4.79 ERA don’t help either.
The potential is still there, however. The career 10% swinging strike rate tells you he can miss bats consistently. The question still remains whether he can get the ball over the plate consistently enough for that to matter.
So far in 2018, Mike Foltynewicz has posted a 1-1/2.93 ERA/1.24 WHIP/18 K stat line in 15.1 IPs. Those are solid numbers, especially considering two out of his first three starts were against the Washington Nationals. He still has not gone longer than 5.1 IPs in any start, however. The pitch count will need to be monitored going forward.
That being said, if Mike Foltynewicz can keep the WHIP in the 1.20-1.30 range he could be an effective SP option. Is he putting it all together? Maybe; but he’s still only 26 years old and there’s time to figure it out.
Mike Foltynewicz is currently owned in only 36% of ESPN leagues and 39% of Yahoo leagues. If you’re looking for early-season SP help, he could be a worthy waiver wire add. Alliteration aside.
There are the Fantasy Baseball 2018 Week 2 Hot Topics. No matter how your teams performed last week, remember we’re less than 10% into the season. It’s way too early to panic or gloat. Just stay informed and enjoy the return of Fantasy Baseball. Like the Chosen One, you’ll take your place in the great circle of stuff. Until next time, always never forget to check your references.
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