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Week 21 Hot Topics: Living Dangerously Edition

Greetings from the SCFE Week 21 Hot Topics column. When the Fantasy Football insanity begins, you know it’s almost playoff time in Fantasy Baseball. I’m pretty sure 28 straight hours of Fantasy Football coverage is punishment for shoplifting in some countries. Party on Wayne, party on Garth.

Week 21 Hot Topics
Photo Credit: Arturo Pardavila III

Greetings from the SCFE Week 21 Hot Topics column. When the Fantasy Football insanity begins, you know it’s almost playoff time in Fantasy Baseball. I’m pretty sure 28 straight hours of Fantasy Football coverage is punishment for shoplifting in some countries. Party on Wayne, party on Garth.

For this week’s column, it’s another classic 1980’s movie. Johnny Dangerously is one of my favorite comedies of all time. If you’ve never seen it; you’re missing out. Before Michael Keaton was Batman, Birdman, or Beetlejuice (alliteration aside), he was Johnny Dangerously. It’s almost freaky how young Michael Keaton is in this movie.

Released in 1984, Johnny Dangerously premiered at the tail end of a wave of legendary 1980’s spoof movies. Yes, there were spoof movies before the Scary Movie franchise. Where do you think they got the idea?

The 1980’s included such genre spoofs as Airplane! and Airplane II: The Sequel (disaster movies); Spaceballs (sci fi); Top Secret! (spy movies); and This is Spinal Tap (music documentaries and the music industry in general). If you’ve never seen any of these movies, you really need to.

Johnny Dangerously is a spoof of gangster movies and never fails to make me laugh out loud. Although it was basically irrelevant at the box office, it became a cult classic on videotape and cable.

Johnny Dangerously is also one the most eminently quotable movies ever made. If you’ve ever heard someone say “you sneaky bastage!” Guess what? This is where that comes from. I personally recommend regular viewings of Johnny Dangerously to stay happy and well adjusted.

And that is why this week’s column is living Dangerously. No matter how your team is doing, you should still enjoy the Fantasy Baseball experience. This is supposed to be fun. Just like Johnny Dangerously. Like Joe Maddon says, never let the pressure exceed the pleasure.

Here are the SCFE Fantasy Baseball Week 21 Hot Topics.

Week 21 Hot Topics

Hot Topic No. 1: “I can hear again, and I can see! But who am I?”

Anthony Rizzo, 1B/2B, Chicago Cubs

Johnny Dangerously is a pop culture touchstone. Many people have quoted the movie without even knowing it. This quote’s still kind of obscure, however. Just like the obscure baseball rule that just gave Anthony Rizzo 2B eligibility.

You read that right; Anthony Rizzo is eligible for 2B (and don’t forget MI) status in standard ESPN and Yahoo leagues. Like watching The Usual Suspects for the first time and realizing the true identity of Keyser Soze, you’re probably asking yourself, “how did that happen?”

It actually started last season with an opposing manager making a protest. How’s that for irony? In certain bunting situations with a runner at first, Joe Maddon employs a defensive alignment where Anthony Rizzo moves in from 1B to cover the bunt and the 2B moves over to cover the runner at first. Like Rick Moranis said in Spaceballs, “everybody got that?”

When the Cubs utilized this strategy against Pittsburgh during a game on September 28, 2016, Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle notified the umpires that Anthony Rizzo had effectively switched positions. Under the rules of baseball, Anthony Rizzo had to swap out his first baseman’s mitt for another glove during the play.

And here’s where it gets interesting. Even though Anthony Rizzo went back to his original position after the play was over, he was still credited with an official appearance at 2B. The Cubs continued to use this strategy during 2017, and Anthony Rizzo has now accumulated enough appearances at 2B to qualify for Fantasy eligibility at the position.

Fantasy owners waking up last week to see Anthony Rizzo with his new 2B eligibility were probably confused like Ray Walston in the quote above from Johnny Dangerously. For those wondering “how on earth did that happen?” Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

From a Fantasy Baseball perspective, Anthony Rizzo owners have been waiting for this. Multi-position eligibility for Anthony Rizzo is like Mace Windu’s purple lightsaber. It’s something new that just makes everything else better.

If you have Anthony Rizzo on your roster and you’re struggling with 2B or MI, you’ve just been handed your solution. If Anthony Rizzo had been 2B-eligible all season, he’d be first among all 2B in HRs and second in RBI. Taking a look at 1B options with less than 50% ownership in ESPN leagues (Rhys Hoskins, Yonder Alonso, Ryon Healy, and Lucas Duda are all intriguing), you can see the possibilities.

Some might say Anthony Rizzo has been “disappointing” this season. I declare shenanigans on that one. Through August 20, Anthony Rizzo has posted a .268 AVG/71 R/28 HR/84 RBI/8 SB stat line in 121 games. Except for AVG, he is on pace to match or exceed all of his totals from last season. He’s also sporting a .387 OBP and .900 OPS. I wish I could be “disappointing” like that.

Did I mention Anthony Rizzo just won NL Player of the Week? Seriously, is there anyone out there who wouldn’t want Anthony Rizzo on their roster? I believe that’s the sound of crickets chirping. If you’re an Anthony Rizzo owner, you suddenly have extra options with your roster and a top-tier player with eligibility at 1B, 2B, MI, CI, and UTIL. That is never disappointing.

If you’re an Anthony Rizzo owner and you’re now looking to make a roster move, check out the SCFE Waiver Wire column by Dennis Sosic for your best options.

 

Hot Topic No. 2: “This is fargin war.”

Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox

Embed from Getty Images

Anyone who grew up in the 1980’s owes a debt to the Roman Moronie character played by Richard Dimitri. He taught us how to use profanity in public and get away with it. Adults either got it and thought it was hilarious, or it went right over their heads. Either way, kids could swear with impunity. Good times.

When the Yankees traded for Todd Frazier and David Robertson, this was essentially a declaration of war against the Red Sox. When the Yankees made that deal, sure it helped them; but the Yankees (and everyone else in baseball) knew the Red Sox were desperate for 3B and bullpen help. Baseball’s version of the Hatfields and McCoys were at it again.

As I discussed in my trade deadline column, however, the Yankees may have unleashed the law of unintended consequences by snaking the Red Sox. If the Red Sox had acquired Todd Frazier, Rafael Devers would probably still be in the minors. Instead, Rafael Devers is tearing up MLB like Kurt Russell in the last hour of Tombstone. The Yankees called down the thunder, and now they’ve got it.

Rafael Devers was Boston’s top prospect heading into this season (Andrew Benintendi doesn’t count). He was considered the best left-handed hitter on the international market when the Red Sox signed him in 2013 as a 16-year old. The bat speed and power were the stuff of legend.

In 2017, Rafael Devers put up video game numbers in the minors through July: .311 AVG/54 R/20 HR/60 RBI in 86 games. Yikes. The Red Sox were hesitant to call him up, however, because this was his first season above A level, and he only played nine games at Triple-A after being promoted from Double-A. After losing out on Todd Frazier, however, the Red Sox took the plunge.

The only thing holding Rafael Devers back this season was his inexperience. The Red Sox had to ask themselves whether a 20-year old rookie was ready for a prime role for a team in the thick of a pennant race. So far, Rafael Devers has answered that question like Christian Bale did in Batman Begins. I’d say he looks ready for the role thus far.

Rafael Devers got the call to the Show on July 25, and since then he has put up a .350 AVG/17 R/8 HR/16 RBI/2 SB stat line in his first 21 MLB games. In the recent August 18-20 series against the Yankees where the Red Sox extended their divisional lead to five games, Rafael Devers went 4-for-11 with 4 Rs, 2 HRs, 3 RBI, and 1 SB. Red Sox fans might send Todd Frazier Christmas cards to thank him for being in New York.

Rafael Devers is currently unowned in 32% of ESPN leagues and 31% of Yahoo leagues. Yes, he’s still a 20-year old rookie and there are some contact concerns (21 Ks in his first 80 MLB ABs), but the upside is undeniable. If you need another bat for your team, this could be one of those acquisitions that makes the difference come playoff time. Check your waiver wire.

For all the news on Rafael Devers and other rookies, head over to the SCFE Rookie Report provided by Derek Harvey.

Hot Topic No. 3: “You shouldn’t hang me on a hook, Johnny. My father hung me on a hook once. Once!”

Michael Conforto, OF, New York Mets

Embed from Getty Images

In addition to Mike Moustakas, Michael Conforto was one of the three picks in my preseason bounceback hitters article. How you like me now? Of course, my third bounceback pick was Jason Heyward. I guess two out of three ain’t bad.

The quote above from Danny Vermin (you have to love that character name), played by a pre-weight lifting Joe Piscopo (Family Guy covers this), sums up Michael Conforto’s MLB experience in 2016. He had every right to a chip on his shoulder heading into 2017.

A 2014 first round pick (10th overall), Michael Conforto rocketed through the minors and debuted in 2015 with a .270 BA/9 HR/26 RBI/30 R stat line in 174 ABs. He was a popular sleeper heading into the 2016 season. In April of 2016, Michael Conforto certainly looked the part; he exploded out of the gates with a .365 BA/4 HR/18 RBI/15 R stat line through 74 April ABs.

After that, however, he basically turned into Joc Pederson in the second half of 2015. It wasn’t pretty. Michael Conforto finished 2016 with a .220 BA/12 HR/42 RBI/38 R/2 SB stat line in 304 ABs, which included a merciful demotion during the season.

Heading into 2017, Michael Conforto had gone from sleeper and breakout candidate to possible post-hype sleeper and bounceback candidate. Although Michael Conforto owners burned in 2016 probably left him for dead, all was not lost. Between the power and the batting eye, the potential was still there.

Just like The Wonders in That Thing You Do, Michael Conforto’s 2016 was a common tale. He was a prospect promoted too soon who wasn’t prepared to struggle at the MLB level. Kyle Schwarber this season is a great comparison. Early adopters on Michael Conforto were probably right; just a year too soon.

In 2017, through August 20 Michael Conforto has posted a .275 AVG/71 R/26 HR/65 RBI/2 SB stat line in 106 games. He was an All-Star this season, and he doesn’t turn 25 until next March. There are still some strikeout issues (26% K rate), but the BB rate is excellent (13%). Like Daniel Craig taking over James Bond in Casino Royale, the future is bright.

If Michael Conforto is on your roster in a redraft league, you either drafted him late or he was an early-season waiver wire acquisition. Feel free to head to your happy place like Happy Gilmore. Sometimes, a risk pays off.

Michael Conforto has also reestablished himself as a significant keeper league asset. If you traded him during the offseason, you’re probably feeling like the 20th Century Fox executives who told George Lucas he could keep the merchandising rights to a stupid little movie called Star Wars because nobody was going to watch it. Was that too soon?

Sometimes, you just have to keep the faith. Players take time to develop, and some on different timetables than others. If you hung on to Michael Conforto, good for you.

 

Those are the Fantasy Baseball Week 21 Hot Topics. If you’re in contention for the playoffs, watch Johnny Dangerously. It will help you relax when making roster decisions. If you’re out of it, watch Johnny Dangerously. It will help you maintain your sense of humor. Until next time, don’t fake the funk on a nasty dunk.

 

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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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