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Week 3 Hot Topics: Pork Chop Express Edition

No matter how your teams have fared so far this season, it’s still way too early to panic or give up. We’re barely 10% into the season. It may be tempting to attack the waiver wire like Darth Vader attacking everything that moves at the end of Rogue One; but you drafted your team for a reason.

2018 Week 3 Hot Topics
Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Greetings from SCFE’s 2018 Week 3 Hot Topics column. Spring has arrived and baseball is back. Allegedly. I guess the weather didn’t get the memo. With all the postponements and delays, fans tuning in for MLB games probably think they turned on The Day After Tomorrow by mistake. It’s been nasty out there.

The cold temperatures haven’t kept players’ tempers from heating up, however. Maybe MLB players were getting into the WrestleMania spirit. With multiple brawls during MLB’s first two weeks, I was waiting to see if steel chairs would get involved. Like putting ketchup on a hot dog, baseball’s unwritten code demands retribution.

Watching the melee between the Rockies and the Padres, I was reminded of the fight scene between the Chang Sing and Wing Kong in Big Trouble in Little China. At some point, I figured the three Storms would show up. You get that if you’ve seen the movie.

Big Trouble in Little China is a prime example of a cult movie. You either get it or you don’t. Released in 1986 and directed by John Carpenter, the film stars Kurt Russell as Jack Burton, a truck driver with a big rig called the Pork Chop Express. The movie tells Jack’s story as he gets wrapped up in an adventure of ancient curses, sorcery, martial arts, and gratuitous one-liners.

If you’ve never seen Big Trouble in Little China, you need to check it out at least once. You may not like it, but you can’t say it’s been done before. Unless they go through with the remake. And now I’m sad.

Back to Fantasy Baseball. No matter how your teams have fared so far this season, it’s still way too early to panic or give up. We’re barely 10% into the season. It may be tempting to attack the waiver wire like Darth Vader attacking everything that moves at the end of Rogue One, but you drafted your team for a reason. The ridiculously bad weather to start this season is also a factor. Some MLB players are like older cars; they have trouble getting started when it’s cold.

Of course, if you have a DL situation or know making a move is the right one, then do what you have to do. Just don’t react out of sheer panic based on a small sample size. Just follow Jack Burton’s advice: “Relax.” Doesn’t that feel better?

Let’s start up the Pork Chop Express (6.9 on the Richter scale) with SCFE’s Fantasy Baseball 2018 Week 3 Hot Topics.

2018 Week 3 Hot Topics

Hot Topic No. 1: “Just remember what old Jack Burton does when the earthquakes, the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big old storm right in the eye and says, ‘Give me your best shot. I can take it.’”

Jameson Taillon, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates

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Big Trouble in Little China is a different kind of movie. It doesn’t fit neatly into any one category of movies. The Jack Burton character himself is an anomaly. He’s not a hero, and he’s not an anti-hero either. He’s an accidental hero. In the climactic fight scene, Jack Burton actually shoots a gun into the ceiling and knocks himself out for the first few minutes of the fight. That doesn’t matter, however. Jack Burton is just cool.

Jameson Taillon has taken life’s best shot, and he can take it. He basically missed two full seasons in the minors due to Tommy John surgery followed by hernia surgery. And then he had to deal with a cancer diagnosis last year. Forget about being a Pirates fan, a baseball fan, or a Fantasy Baseball owner. If you’ve got a shred of humanity, you’re rooting for Jameson Taillon.

A first-round pick (2nd overall) of the Pirates in 2010, Jameson Taillon was called up to the Show on June 24, 2016. I think the injuries might have caused the delay. The last time someone got hurt that much, it was the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

In his rookie season, Jameson Taillon finished with a 5-4 record, 3.38 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 85 Ks in 104 IP. What stood out, however, was the 1.47 BB/9 ratio. That kind of control and command for a rookie is as rare as smart teenagers in a 1980’s horror movie.

Heading into 2017, Jameson Taillon was a popular breakout candidate. Ron Shandler’s 2017 Baseball Forecaster said: “rise to ace status could happen quickly.” Unfortunately, expectations were not met and Jameson Taillon finished 2017 with an 8-7/4.44 ERA/1.48 WHIP/125 K stat line in 133.2 IPs. As discussed above, however, he was clearly dealing with other things.

Through his first three starts of 2018, James Taillon has posted a 2-0/0.89 ERA/0.69 WHIP/18 K line in 20.1 IPs. This includes a complete game one-hit shutout (7 K/2 BB) of the Reds on April 8. It’s still early, but there’s a lot to like here.

The ERA and WHIP are obviously unsustainable. I’m optimistic; not insane (depending on who you ask). The stuff and the command are real, however. Despite the health issues last year, his K/9 rate increased to 8.4. He also has become a solid groundball pitcher, meaning he can still be effective on the days when the stuff isn’t there.

Although there’s still a long way to go, Jameson Taillon could be headed for the breakout season predicted last year. He’s actually currently unowned in 10% of ESPN and Yahoo leagues. If by some miracle he’s on the waiver wire in your league, go get him. Right now. Seriously, stop reading and go pick him up. I’ll wait.

If you’re looking for more information on pitching options, check out SCFE’s Pitching Planner provided by Michael Tomlin.

Hot Topic No. 2: “It’s all in the reflexes.”

Ozzie Albies, 2B, Atlanta Braves

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You have to love Jack Burton’s unwavering confidence and swagger. Whether it’s catching a beer bottle one-handed or taking out an ancient undead sorcerer, this is how he sums it up. If someone asked Ozzie Albies the reason for his early-season success, this would be a perfectly acceptable answer.

Ozzie Albies was signed by the Braves as a 16-year-old international free agent in 2013. That was also the year he began switch-hitting. Like Neo in the Matrix Reloaded, you could say he has some skill.

From 2014-2017, Ozzie Albies posted a career minor league .304 AVG/255 R/16 HR/150 RBI/102 SB stat line in 390 games. The speed and batting skills were elite, as he finished with a career minor league .365 OBP and put up at least 20 SBs every season.

Ozzie Albies made his MLB debut on August 1, 2017; and finished the season with a .286 AVG/34 R/6 HR/28 RBI/8 SB stat line in 57 games. Not too shabby for a 20-year-old rookie. He rocketed up draft boards this year after lighting up Spring Training with a .303 AVG/9 R/3 HR/8 RBI/3 SB stat line in 22 games.

Through April 16, Ozzie Albies has lived up to draft hype thus far with a .328 AVG/16 R/5 HR/11 RBI/1 SB performance. This includes 8 multi-hit games through the first 15. As Darth Vader would say: “Impressive. Most Impressive.”

The power is a little surprising. In the minors, Ozzie Albies never had a double-digit HR season. Considering he’s only 21, however, anything is possible and more power could be on the way. Of course, flashing power limits his SB opportunities. I suspect Fantasy Baseball owners can live with that.

When you look at the talent the Braves have accumulated in their farm system, you can easily picture Ozzie Albies at the top of a potent lineup. Watching the Braves farm system is like wrestling fans waiting for the run-in. You just know someone’s coming.

If you need a 2B, or if you’re in a keeper/dynasty format, maybe you can convince a fellow owner to “sell high” on Ozzie Albies. You should try it now; it’s likely going to be your last chance.

Hot Topic No. 3: “Okay, you people sit tight, hold the fort and keep the home fires burning. And if we’re not back by dawn . . . call the president.”

Mallex Smith, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

If you’re heading off to face a centuries-old undead sorcerer and his army, this is the kind of bravado you want to head out with. Jack Burton may not know what he’s doing, but he does it with sheer awesomeness.

This is Mallex Smith’s chance to display some awesomeness. If you’re a Kevin Kiermaier owner, you might want to consider this after you’re done asking yourself “how did this happen again?’’

In my preseason Cheap Sources of Speed column, I said it’s possible that Kevin Kiermaier has just been unlucky the last two years instead of being injury-prone. Apparently, Kevin Kiermaier decided to build his house on a cursed burial ground; because the bad luck has continued.

On April 17, Kevin Kiermaier was transferred to the 60-day DL with a torn right thumb ligament. Once again, the head-first slide takes down a player like Keanu Reeves taking down everybody at the end of Constantine. What can I say; it’s been on cable a lot lately.

Enter Mallex Smith. Originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2012, Mallex Smith demonstrated blazing speed wherever he went. In 2014, he put up a .310 AVG/99 R/5 HR/31 RBI/88 SB stat line in the minors. Like some prospects, however, he was shipped around. In 2014, he was traded to the Braves. He was sent to the Rays in 2017 and finished with a .270 AVG/33 R/2 HR/12 RBI/16 SB stat line in 81 games. That translates into 32 SBs in a full season, and there were only 29 MLB players with 20 or more SBs in 2017.

So far this season, Mallex Smith has posted a .383 AVG/6 R/0 HR/3 RBI/2 SB stat line in 15 games. With Kevin Kiermaier out and the Rays coming off their latest offseason roster purge, Mallex Smith should be the Rays’ CF going forward.

Keep in mind that Mallex Smith has zero power (never more than 5 HRs in a season), and he’s not giving you RBI. That AVG is also coming down. If the Rays use him in the leadoff spot, however (right now he’s alternating between 1st and 9th in the lineup), Mallex Smith may give you AVG, R, and SB opportunities.

If you need a replacement for Kevin Kiermaier or you need SB help, Mallex Smith is currently owned in only 32% of Yahoo leagues and 20% of Yahoo leagues. He doesn’t turn 25 until May, and there is upside. He could be a worthy addition if you need some speed.

For all your hitting needs, head over to the SCFE Hitting Planner by Aaron Hinckley.

 

Those are the Fantasy Baseball 2018 Week 3 Hot Topics. Hopefully, the weather warms up, and we can start seeing full slates of games. Even if your teams are having trouble adapting to the cold like the Snowspeeders in Empire Strikes Back, there’s lots of time turn things around. It will get warmer. I hope. Like Jack Burton says, “it’s a pretty amazing planet we live on.”

Until next time, always never forget to check your references.

David Rubin

Dave started playing fantasy sports during the dark ages of pen and paper. He is also an avid reader and watcher of sci fi, fantasy, horror, and other escapist pursuits. He cannot be found on social media, and he is proud of that.

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