Welcome to the SCFE Week 11 Hot Topics column. We’re into June, and the Fantasy Baseball season is in full swing. Pun intended. With the calendar turning towards summer, top prospects are starting to get their call to the big show. This timing is all about refining the skills of prospects (cough, service time, cough). Fantasy owners are thrilled future stars are given the time to properly develop (cough, Super 2, cough). Sorry, I have something in my throat (cough, CBA, cough).
For this week’s column, I’m going old school cinema once again. And as far as I’m concerned, the funniest movie of all time. That’s right; it’s Airplane! Here’s why it’s the funniest movie ever – even if you’ve never heard of it before now, you’ve heard the phrase “and don’t call me Shirley” at some point. This is where that expression comes from. Quotes from this movie are fundamental parts of the pop culture lexicon.
It is also the progenitor of every “spoof” movie for the better part of the past four decades. Think of every movie you’ve ever seen that parodies a certain genre of films and features sight gags, silly dialogue, and pop culture references. The Scary Movie franchise, the Naked Gun films, Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, Superhero Movie, Meet the Spartans, etc. Airplane! is what started it all.
Released in 1980, Airplane! was a parody of the disaster films of the 1970s. For some reason, filmmakers in the 1970s were obsessed with fires, floods, earthquakes, epidemics, and other tragedies. Maybe it was to distract people from the horrible fashion choices of that decade. Something had to be done.
If you’ve never actually seen the movie, I need you to stop reading this and watch it. I’m serious, right now. I’ll wait. Now don’t you feel like you’ve filled in something missing from your life? I know all the refences don’t hold up today (the hilarity of June Cleaver speaking jive is meaningless to most people below a certain age), but much of the humor is timeless. If you’ve picked the wrong week to quit smoking, drinking, amphetamines, and/or sniffing glue, hopefully the Week 11 Hot Topics can ease your pain.
Week 11 Hot Topics
Hot Topic No. 1: “Auntie Em, Uncle Henry, Toto! It’s a twister! It’s a twister!”
Lance McCullers, Jr., SP, Houston Astros
Johnny Henshaw (played by actor Stephen Stucker) has some of the best lines in the movie, even though he’s only in a limited number of scenes. This sums up my initial reaction to getting the ESPN notification jingle of doom on my phone and seeing Lance McCullers hit the 10-day DL.
If you’re a talented pitcher in 2017, it seems like a trip to the DL is almost mandatory. At this point, if your team is healthy or getting there, you should treat it like a no-hitter. Don’t talk about it, or you’ll just jinx it.
I was going to write this week about Lance McCullers’ emergence as a new ace on the Houston Astros’ staff. After his last performance (7.0 IP, 1ER, 2 Hs, 2 BBs, and 8 Ks with a no-hitter going into the seventh inning), he certainly looked the part.
His stat line so far in 2017: 6-1 with a 2.58 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 89 Ks in 76.2 IP. Sounds like the resume of an ace to me. A first-round pick of the Astros in 2012, Lance McCullers has posted better than a 9.0 K/9 ratio in every stop of his professional career. He possesses a fastball/slider combo that makes scouts salivate.
Like most young pitchers (he turns 24 in October), there was some risk heading into this season. To say Lance McCullers had some control issues last year (5.0 BB/9) is like saying Ted Striker had some issues with flying after losing his squadron over Macho Grande. Just watch Airplane! If you haven’t done so, this will all make sense. There is also an injury history; Lance McCullers missed 36 games last year with a shoulder injury, and then the last 56 games with an elbow injury.
All systems looked go in 2017, however, as the BBs plummeted (2.7 BB/9 so far) and Lance McCullers looked healthy. And then I got my friendly ESPN DL jingle on June 12. Houston, we have a problem (sorry, I couldn’t pass that up). I’ll ask this question again – does ESPN realize they are associating their theme with giving Fantasy owners bad news? Maybe someone should have a meeting about this.
At any rate, Lance McCullers owners may not need to panic like Johnny quoted above. It’s not an arm injury. The word right now is lower-back discomfort. Apparently, he felt something during a bullpen session and the Astros are being cautious. This is the new reality of the 10-day DL, especially with pitchers. Teams can now be careful, and only have a pitcher miss one start instead of two under the old 15-day DL.
It looks like Lance McCullers and Fantasy owners have dodged a bullet. Keep your fingers crossed, and hopefully he’ll be back dominating soon. At least word got out before weekly lineups locked for this week. So that’s something. For more injury news, check out the Injury Report provided by Dylan Tully.
Hot Topic No. 2: “We had a choice of steak or fish. Yes, yes, I remember, I had lasagna.”
Scooter Gennett, 2B/OF, Cincinnati Reds
I’m sure Scooter Gennett made some DFS players very happy last week. We’re talking Ron Burgundy finding out Baxter was still alive-level happy. On June 6, Scooter Gennett had himself a ball game: 5-5 at the dish with 4 R, 4 HRs, and 10 RBI. Congratulations, Scooter Gennett.
Like the above quote from Leslie Nielsen as Dr. Rumack, however, this was completely random and out of nowhere. To say Scooter Gennett is not known for his power is like saying Jay Cutler is not known for his people skills. Even in today’s power-crazy MLB, Scooter Gennett never hit more than 10 HRs in a season at any level, until he set a career-high last year with 14.
A one-time prospect of the Milwaukee Brewers, Scooter Gennett was a projected as an SB contributor, but the speed never materialized. After failing to reach 10 SBs in any major league season, he was put on waivers by the Brewers. The Reds claimed him this past offseason, but did not have a starting position for him.
So far in 2017, Scooter Gennett has received playing time in a utility role, and through June 12 he has a posted a .310 AVG/20 R/7 HR/32 RBI/1 SB stat line. Of course, subtract the June 6 outburst and the numbers are less than overwhelming.
So is Scooter Gennett worthy of waiver wire attention? The fact that he is owned in only 15% of ESPN leagues and 16% of Yahoo leagues even after his June 6 rampage pretty much answers that question. He does have a career .282 AVG, but he does not draw walks, has not hit for power or driven in runs, and has never been an SB threat.
In an NL-Only league or an extremely deep mixed league, you might take a flyer on Scooter Gennett. Anywhere else, there are probably better options with more upside. Still, a performance like Scooter Gennett’s on June 6 must be recognized. I’m sure some DFS players out there won’t forget it anytime soon.
Hot Topic No. 3: “Me John, big tree!”
Mallex Smith, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
I was going to write about Kevin Kiermaier this week, but a fractured hip sent that idea out the window. When his replacement was called up, however, it gave me a replacement topic. Like Han Solo telling Luke Skywalker he was going to die on the planet where he used to live – “convenient.”
Another quote from Johnny above, this sums up Mallex Smith’s performance following his promotion after Kevin Kiermaier’s injury. Through his first four games since being promoted, Mallex Smith has a .571 AVG with 6 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, and 4 SBs, including 3 steals in one game. I know it’s a ludicrously small sample size, but you may want to give Mallex Smith some consideration.
Did I mention the blazing speed? If there is anything that will get a Fantasy Baseball owner’s attention these days, that will do it. Originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2012, Mallex Smith was first traded to Atlanta, and then shipped to the Rays during this past offseason. Wherever he has gone, however, he brought the speed with him. In 2014, he had 88 SBs in the minors.
So why hasn’t Mallex Smith taken MLB by storm thus far? He has zero power (his best season for HRs was five) and has some issues hitting lefties. That being said, he just turned 24, and this looks to be his first real opportunity at serious playing time. With Kevin Kiermaier on the shelf for at least the next two months, the Rays should let Mallex Smith run with the CF job. Pun intended.
The HR he hit was a fluke, but the speed is real. In today’s speed-challenged MLB environment, having Mallex Smith in your lineup gives you a shot at the SB category every week. He should hit leadoff most days and contribute in SB and R, and he has a track record of getting on base (.380 career OBP in the minors). The Rays also have every incentive to play him and see what they’ve got.
If you’re dealing with injuries or disappointments in your OF, Mallex Smith is currently owned in 34% of Yahoo leagues and only 12% of ESPN leagues. A young player with upside that can help you win a category can be a championship-winning gamble. Great reward requires great risk.
I hope you enjoyed the Fantasy Baseball Week 11 Hot Topics. Even if you’ve suffered through a slow start, there’s still time to right the ship. With the prospect floodgates beginning to open, there will be opportunities to improve your roster. Don’t give up hope. Like Ted Striker, you can still get out there and win one for the Zipper. Until next time, the Dude abides.
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