Happy 4th of July from the SCFE Week 14 Hot Topics column. I hope everyone had a relaxing and enjoyable holiday weekend. Barbecues, baseball, and fireworks; you can’t go wrong with that. Not to mention extra time to catch up on all things Fantasy Baseball.
Sometimes, coming up with a theme for each week’s column can be a chore. At other times, it’s as easy as returning kicks with Devin Hester on any Madden game from the past 10 years. When someone asked me what I would do for an Independence Day column, I almost asked them if they never made the connection. Bob and Tom listeners will get that one.
After all, the film Independence Day is part of my own theory of movies. Basically, movies considered “good” from a critical standpoint are not always fun to watch. Movies like Independence Day, on the other hand, will never be considered cinematic achievements, but I still watch Independence Day every time it’s on a random channel.
Why do I keep watching a movie that is really nothing more than a standard sci-fi alien invasion movie? Because no matter how many times I see Independence Day, it’s still fun to watch. Who cares if the dialogue is cheesy and the plot is silly? Think about it; the aliens get defeated by a computer virus. A race of beings that figured out the technology and mathematics for interstellar travel didn’t have antivirus software? Seriously?
I guess the aliens in Independence Day must have been the morons of the universe. But that’s actually part of the movie’s charm. Yes, it’s ridiculous; you just go with it and have a good time. Kind of like Fantasy Baseball sometimes.
Hopefully, you got a chance to see Independence Day over the holiday weekend. It’s a tradition just like watching A Christmas Story on Christmas Day. Except for the Fresh Prince saving the world from aliens. Here are the Week 14 Hot Topics.
Week 14 Hot Topics
Hot Topic No. 1: “We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”
Clint Frazier, OF, New York Yankees
Who would’ve thought that Bill Pullman (Lone Star!) would make such a great movie President? If you don’t get chills watching this speech, you may be missing a soul. Forget about the absurdity of the scenario. This should be a standard motivational speech at corporate functions.
This also describes how Yankees fans and prospect hounds felt when they learned that Clint Frazier was getting promoted. Isn’t it amazing how many prospects debut in late June and early July? It’s almost as if there’s something significant about this time of year. It could have something to do with service time. Or maybe most prospects just become major-league ready at the same time. That must be it. In case you haven’t caught the sarcasm, I’m laying it on pretty thick.
The Yankees, however, have been cranking out prospects all season long. Kind of like Hollywood executives greenlighting superhero movies, sequels, and remakes. It seems like there’s always another one coming. Yup, the Evil Empire has returned.
There was also drama surrounding Clint Frazier before he ever played in a big league game. He’s a Yankee all right. In Spring Training, Clint Frazier wound up on the front page of the New York Times because of a controversy caused by his hair. Apparently, it was too long and angered the vengeful spirit of George Steinbrenner.
But why raise such a ruckus over a minor leaguer? Originally a first-round pick (fifth overall) of the Cleveland Indians in 2013, Clint Frazier was the centerpiece of the Andrew Miller trade in July 2016. Described as having “legendary” bat speed, Clint Frazier was considered by many to be a better prospect than Aaron Judge heading into this season.
After posting double-digit HR and SB minor league seasons in 2014, 2015, and 2016, Clint Frazier is viewed as the mythic potential five-category Fantasy Baseball contributor. That probably explains all the attention.
Through 74 games at Triple-A this season, Clint Frazier posted solid numbers with 46 Rs, 12 HRs, 42 RBI, and 9 SBs. The .256 AVG left something to be desired, but the .344 OBP showed some patience. On July 1, Clint Frazier got his call to the Show. Announcing his presence with authority, he debuted with an HR in his first game.
The potential is unquestionable. That potential, however, may not translate into immediate results. There are strikeout concerns with Clint Frazier; the swing can get a little long and he has some issues with off-speed pitchers. His stay in the majors might also be temporary when Aaron Hicks returns from the DL.
Clint Frazier is still only 22, and he will struggle at times. If you want an example, just look at Aaron Judge last season. Despite the risks, however, there is a reason Clint Frazier’s ownership in ESPN leagues jumped 20% in less than 24 hours. He should be given opportunities to perform; you don’t call up a top prospect so they can sit on the bench. If he contributes, he should stick.
While a number of prospects are getting the call this time of year (cough, service time, cough), not all of them have the potential to make a significant impact. Clint Frazier has that potential.
He’s currently owned in 26% of ESPN leagues and 33% of Yahoo leagues. If you have an open roster spot, there’s worse you can do than taking a high-upside flier.
Hot Topic No. 2: “John Lennon. Smart man. Shot in the back, very sad.”
Trea Turner, 2B/SS/OF, Washington Nationals
Trea Turner. Leading MLB in SBs. Broken wrist, very sad. The simple wisdom of Judd Hirsch as Julius Levinson sums up how Trea Turner owners are feeling. If you have Kris Bryant and Trea Turner on your team, last week did not go so well. Kind of like things did not go well for the gang that took Keyser Soze’s family hostage.
Once again, there is nothing scarier these days than seeing a batter take a pitch on the hand. When that happened to Trea Turner on June 29, you could sense the Fantasy Baseball community holding its collective breath. Unfortunately, the worst fears were confirmed when Trea Turner was placed on the DL the next day with a fractured right wrist.
As of July 3, there is no timetable for his return. For comparison purposes, Freddie Freeman fractured his wrist on May 17, and could be back this week. Based on that timeline, a best-case scenario puts Trea Turner back in late August. If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Trea Turner could still be a tremendous asset come playoff time.
For now, if you’re trying to find a roster replacement for Trea Turner, should you be looking for a “speed guy?” Not unless you have absolutely no one else on your team to provide SBs. In today’s MLB offensive environment, Trea Turner’s blazing speed is a luxury; not a necessity.
Typical “speed” guys are not known for their power or driving in runs. When they actually hit an HR, they tend to be more surprised than the pitcher. When drafting a “speed” guy, you’re primarily hoping for SBs, Rs, and AVG. Of course, being fast doesn’t mean being a good hitter, and it also doesn’t mean automatically being at the top of the lineup.
As a result, Rs and AVG are not a given, and many “speed” guys only contribute to SBs. The problem with one-category hitters is that they may win you one category, but cost you the rest. What makes Trea Turner so valuable, and what makes his injury such a killer, is that he gives you more than just SBs.
Not only was Trea Turner leading MLB with 35 SBs at the time of his injury, he also contributed a .279 AVG/53 R/7 HR/32 RBI stat line in 68 games. He was producing everywhere. Reality check – you’re not going to replace Trea Turner off the waiver wire. But you should think about more than just SBs when filling his roster slot.
When scanning the waiver wire, you should look for a player that can contribute SBs, but that shouldn’t be the primary consideration. Look for the player that contribute best across the board. In today’s speed-challenged MLB, there are only a few players who can win you SBs every week.
Trea Turner is sadly one of those guys. Unless your opponent has one of them, however, you still have a shot at SBs as long you have players with any speed. Why pick up a player who can only help in one category when you still have a chance in that category anyway?
Losing Trea Turner is a crushing blow, but it doesn’t mean your season is over. Try to strengthen your roster with the best contributor you can find. Hopefully, Trea Turner will back in time for the Fantasy Baseball playoffs, and you can stay competitive in SBs until then.
Hot Topic No. 3: “Welcome to Earth!”
Jon Gray, SP, Colorado Rockies
Some people forget that Will Smith cemented himself as an action star and major box office draw in Independence Day. And what makes someone an official action hero? It’s the one-liners! When Will Smith gives this friendly greeting after punching an alien in the face, you know he’s arrived.
This also works for Jon Gray’s first start off the DL, when he punched out 10 Diamondbacks. After missing 70 games with a stress fracture in his left foot, Jon Gray picked up the W on June 30 with a 6.0 IP/7 H/2 ER/1 BB/10 K stat line. The seven hits may seem high, but this is the Diamondbacks we’re talking about.
If you’re not familiar with Jon Gray, he was drafted by the Rockies with the third overall pick in the first round of the 2013 draft. Or as draft followers know him, “the guy who was drafted with the pick after Kris Bryant.” No pressure there.
There is a reason Jon Gray was drafted third overall. He has a dominant fastball and slider that can rack up the Ks. This is a pitcher with the skills that can carry your pitching staff in a given week. Of course, like most young pitchers, Jon Gray is still harnessing those skills. Which means some weeks he might blow up your ERA and WHIP like the aliens in Independence Day blowing up landmarks.
Despite great stuff, Jon Gray never posted spectacular numbers in the minors. Playing in the Pacific Coast League, where real players put up video game numbers, probably didn’t help. This is actually good preparation for pitching in Colorado, however.
After a cup of coffee in 2015, Jon Gray started 29 games for the Rockies in 2016. While the 10-10 record and 4.61 ERA were not exactly stellar, the 1.26 WHIP was encouraging. Maybe I should mention the 185 Ks in 168.0 IP. Like the extended version of Rapper’s Delight, the stuff is legit.
The command is still a work in progress, as demonstrated by Jon Gray’s 3.2 BB/9 ratio in 2016. Anything above 3.0 is concerning for me, especially for a pitcher who calls Coors Field home. He also tends to get too much of the plate sometimes. But these are things that can be learned.
Jon Gray is the classic high risk/high reward pitcher. Like Star Trek movies, the highs will be high and the lows will be low. I’m still waiting for an apology for Star Trek V. These are the kind of risks, however, that can win you a title. There just aren’t many pitchers with double digit-K potential.
As of July 2, Jon Gray is owned in 54% of Yahoo leagues and 45% of ESPN leagues. The risks are obvious. A pitcher coming an off an injury with WHIP issues and pitching in Coors Field. If you’re looking for serious K potential in the second half, however, you should be sprinting to check the waiver wire in your league. Impact arms don’t come along every day. Go ahead and check. I’ll still be here.
Those are the Fantasy Baseball Week 14 Hot Topics. The All-Star break is almost here, and trade deadline madness is about to begin. There’s a lot going on, but there’s also a lot of opportunities. If you haven’t been paying attention, now’s the time to catch up. And there’s still time to do so. Until next time, be the ball.
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