Welcome to SCFE’s 2018 Week 6 Hot Topics. May is here, and the leaves are finally showing up on the trees. There’s something wrong with that last sentence. Hopefully, the frigid start to the season didn’t cause your team’s too many problems. With the weather warming up, players can loosen up and start getting into their regular season groove. That’s what I keep telling myself.
May 4th was last week, so let me wish everyone a belated happy Star Wars Day. You may be asking, “why is May 4th considered Star Wars Day?” Is it because a monumental event in Star Wars history happened on that date? No; it’s because “May the 4th be with you” is fun to say in public. Get it?
If you’ve ready any of my stuff before now, you’re aware of my proclivity for pop culture references. You’re also aware that I reference Star Wars more than anything else. Expect for Attack of the Clones, I’ve seen every Star Wars movie when they originally premiered in theaters. I consider it a badge of honor that I skipped that train wreck.
Avengers: Infinity War just scored the second-biggest box office total for a move in its second weekend. Guess who’s number one? That would be The Force Awakens. In some ways, the dominance of super hero movies and other franchises at the box office can be traced back to Star Wars.
Setting the Wayback Machine for 1977, A New Hope (it was just called Star Wars back then) was a revelation for both moviegoers and Hollywood executives. It proved conclusively once and for all that sci fi could be appreciated by more than just the fanboy crowd. That’s really impressive considering fanboy wasn’t even a word back then. Basically, every major movie franchise is an attempt to find the next Star Wars. After going with a Star Wars-themed column for May 4th last year, you could say I’m starting a franchise of my own.
Growing up, my goal in life was to become a Jedi Knight. It still is. Now I just need to find a working lightsaber. If Jedi Challenges had been invented when I was a kid, I’m pretty sure I would have never gone outside. I think what resonates most about Star Wars is that no matter how many times I’ve seen the movies, I can always think back to when I first saw them.
I love Fantasy Baseball because it provides the same joy as Star Wars. No matter what else life throws my way, I can always find comfort in immersing myself in Fantasy Baseball. Just like with Star Wars, Fantasy Baseball gives me something to look forward to; no matter how many times I’ve seen it. There’s something to be said for that.
Here are SCFE’s 2018 Week 6 Hot Topics. I promise it’s NOT a trap.
2018 Week 6 Hot Topics
Hot Topic No. 1: “You were the Chosen One!”
Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, Atlanta Braves
Hopefully, Ronald Acuna Jr. doesn’t go over to the dark side like Anakin Skywalker did. Playing baseball in the Darth Vader suit cannot be easy. Just saying. Like Anakin Skywalker and Powder from How High, Ronald Acuna Jr. appears to be the Chosen One.
Let it be written that Ronald Acuna Jr. was promoted by the Atlanta Braves on April 25, 2018. And on that day men wept, women swooned, and children sang. If you’ve haven’t heard of Ronald Acuna Jr. by now, you should provide directions to the cave you’re living with your eyes closed and your hands over your ears.
His minor league exploits are quickly becoming an Arthurian-type legend. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear stories about how Ronald Acuna Jr. single-handedly saved widows and orphans from a burning building while fighting off a pack of mountain lions.
Signed in July 2014 by the Braves as an international free agent, Ronald Acuna Jr. took the world by storm in 2017. As a 19-year old, he finished last season with an overall .325 AVG/88 R/21 HR/82 RBI/44 SB stat line in the minors. He also moved up from A to AA to AAA during 2017. Did I mention his stats actually improved at each level?
But wait; there’s more. Ronald Acuna Jr. capped off 2017 as the MVP of the Arizona Fall League and was named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year. He stayed scorching in Spring Training this year, finishing with a .432 AVG/8 R/4 HR/11 RBI/4 SB stat line in 16 games.
Before Spring Training was over, however, Ronald Acuna Jr. was sent back to AAA. I guess the Braves felt he had some things to work on. Just like Kris Bryant in 2015. It had nothing to do with service time, and you should totally believe that. Like I said in my last column about Gleyber Torres; these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Move along.
After apparently working out whatever his issues were (can you detect the sarcasm? I’m laying it on pretty thick), Ronald Acuna Jr. got the call on April 25. In his second MLB game, he hit his first HR. I’m pretty sure it hasn’t landed yet. Through his first 11 MLB games, Ronald Acuna Jr. has put up a .326 AVG/7 R/2 HR/5 RBI/1 SB stat line. I think this kid might have a future.
As with Anakin Skywalker, there is a dark side here. Ronald Acuna Jr. does have some swing-and-miss in his game (144 Ks in the minors last year). He’s also only 20, and was only hitting .232 at the time of his promotion. Of course, he could have been frustrated due to being demoted after dominating the minors, the AFL, and Spring Training. But it had nothing to do with service time. And there was absolutely nothing sick about Leia kissing Luke in Empire. That still makes me shudder and cringe.
There may be some rookie struggles along the way, but we’re talking about a legit five-category talent here. You read that right. He could be a 25 HR/30 SB player this year. If by some miracle Ronald Acuna Jr. is still available in your league, you need to snatch him up right now. The Force is strong with this one.
Hot Topic No. 2: “Impressive . . . Most Impressive.”
Walker Buehler, SP/RP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Even though this week’s column is all about Star Wars, I also had a Ferris Bueller-themed column last year. This is all too easy. However, I think we need some ground rules going forward. People who were actually alive when Ferris Bueller’s Day Off get first dibs on the references. And I was already saying Buehler? Buehler? last year.
Walker Buehler is another top prospect who performed well in Spring Training but started the season in the minors. Unlike some others, however, this was not about service time. This was about the ongoing efforts of MLB teams to preserve young arms.
Walker Buehler was the first-round pick (24th overall) of the Dodgers in 2015. He slipped down to that spot due to health concerns. A month after signing with the Dodgers, Walker Buehler had Tommy John surgery. After rehab, he registered only 5 IPs in 2016.
He was healthy in 2017 and jumped from Double-A to Triple-A during the season. Overall, he finished 2017 with a 3-3/3.35 ERA/1.11 WHIP/125 K stat line. I should probably note those 125 Ks were in only 88.2 IPs. You could say Walker Buehler generated more whiffs than Kylo Ren trying to hit Luke at the end of The Last Jedi.
Before his Tommy John surgery, Walker Buehler’s fastball topped out at around 96 MPH. After Tommy John surgery, he was throwing 98-99 MPH regularly and touching 100 MPH. This why aggressive baseball parents have their healthy kids get Tommy John surgery. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this procedure when someone is injured; there needs to be a discussion about its overuse. But I digress.
In Spring Training this year, Walker Buehler finished with a 1-0/0.00 ERA/0.50 WHIP/7 K stat line in 4.0 IPs. The Dodgers made no secret that no matter how well he performed, they were looking to limit his innings. The plan was to keep him in the minors and keep his innings down during the first half of the season so he could contribute for the Dodgers in the second half.
While I understand the thinking behind this strategy, I also remember the Dodgers trying the same thing with Julio Urias. Anyone remember how that worked out? The Dodgers, however, were forced to rethink this strategy after Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Clayton Kershaw landed on the DL.
After being shuttled back-and-forth between MLB and the minors for spot starts in April, Walker Buehler was promoted again on May 4. It looks like he’ll be sticking around for a while this time.
In his third start of the season on May 5, Walker Buehler was part of a combined no-hitter. He finished the game with a 6.0 IP/0 H/3 BB/8 K stat line. Overall, he currently has a 2-0/1.13 ERA/1.06 WHIP/19 K stat line in 16.0 IPs. Hence the Darth Vader quote above.
Keep in mind that the Dodgers are going to limit his innings no matter what. Being pulled while a pitching a no-hitter conclusively establishes that. This also means Walker Buehler will likely have his rotation turn skipped sometimes to conserve his innings. You can also expect him to be pulled whenever he gets close to 100 pitches.
That’s the downside. The upside is a 100 MPH fastball and a wicked slider. His command can wander, and he may not be around for the Fantasy Baseball playoffs. With a talent like this, however, you need unlearn what you have learned. Forget about the innings limit. Take whatever Walker Buehler can contribute and be happy with that.
Walker Buehler is currently owned in 52% of ESPN leagues and 68% of Yahoo leagues. This is probably the last chance to jump on the bandwagon. If you need pitching help, you should be going after Walker Buehler like the Rebels went after the Death Star plans. Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. If you don’t get that quote, you’re banned from making Ferris Bueller references.
Hot Topic No. 3: “Do or do not, there is no try.”
Jurickson Profar, SS/OF, Texas Rangers
This iconic quote from master Yoda sums up where Jurickson Profar is at in his MLB career. Call him a “nut up or shut up” guy. I use this term to describe a player whose performance has not lived up to expectations and is running out of opportunities to prove himself. This is also Woody Harrelson’s advice about handling a zombie apocalypse.
It’s ironic to be discussing Jurickson Profar in the same column as two top prospects. Once upon a time, Jurickson Profar was considered by some to be the top prospect in MLB for two years running. He is a cautionary tale about how even supposedly sure things can miss.
Signed by the Rangers as a 16-year old in 2009, Jurickson Profar was known for an advanced bat, developing power, and speed. In 2011, he was named the South Atlantic League MVP after finishing the season with a .286 AVG/.390 OBP/86 R/12 HR/65 RBI/23 SB stat line. After the 2013 season, the Rangers traded Ian Kinsler to clear the path for Jurickson Profar as the Rangers’ starting 2B.
And like the second half of a Behind the Music special, that’s when things went wrong. Jurickson Profar started 2014 on the DL with a torn shoulder muscle. Then he reinjured the shoulder and missed the rest of the season. In 2015, he had shoulder surgery and essentially missed all of that season.
Although healthy in 2016 and 2017, Jurickson Profar was a non-factor. He went back and forth between MLB and the minors, got shifted to OF, and wound up getting benched in 2017 in favor of Ryan Rua. Maybe that’s as bad as Anakin Skywalker having his limbs cut off and being burned alive by lava, but that’s still pretty depressing.
So why would I bring up Jurickson Profar? Because with Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor on the DL, the Rangers are giving him playing time. Don’t consider this a ringing endorsement, however. He hasn’t exactly seized the opportunity with a .225 AVG/10 R/1 HR/13 RBI/1 SB stat line in 102 ABs thus far.
Keep in mind anything can still happen. Jurickson Profar makes contact, and he draws walks. Maybe those SBs will start showing up. It looks like the shoulder injuries robbed him of power, but he’s only 25 and that prospect pedigree is still there.
Jurickson Profar is currently owned in only 5% of ESPN leagues and 3% of Yahoo leagues. If you’re a distraught Corey Seager owner or you need MI/OF help in a deep league, you could take a flyer. The odds are against it; but something could happen. Hope is inherent in the human condition.
Those are the Fantasy Baseball 2018 Week 6 Hot Topics. I hope you took in some Star Wars on May 4th; I know I did. If your Fantasy Baseball teams have been off to a slow start, take a lesson from Han Solo and never let them tell you the odds. There’s still a long way to go and anything can happen. Just don’t trust your estranged son with a lightsaber; bad things can happen. Was that too soon?
Until next time, always never forget to check your references. And may the Force be with you.
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