Welcome to the SCFE Week 9 Hot Topics column. I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend. The extra time off from work gives us an opportunity to relax with our friends and family. And we also get to binge on baseball.
If you live in Indianapolis, Memorial Day weekend might also be the biggest weekend of the year. Even if you’re completely oblivious to auto racing, you’ve heard of the Indianapolis 500. Like most major cities spend the entire month of December setting up decorations, Indianapolis spends all of May celebrating the 500. It’s like Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Mardi Gras, and all major sports championships rolled into one.
If you’ve never been to either the Indianapolis 500 or Kentucky Derby, you should go to at least one. Anything that gives otherwise responsible adults the excuse to party like rock stars has to be experienced at least once. I remember being at the Kentucky Derby and seeing two guys use a hollowed-out old school boom box to sneak in a bottle of Jack Daniels. After they finished the bottle, they took turns bashing the empty boom box over each other’s heads. Yes, I find things like that funny. You also can’t get a memory like that from an average weekend.
In honor of The Greatest Spectacle In Racing, I decided to go with a racing-themed column this week. When it comes to quotable racing movies, you can’t do better than Talladega Nights – The Legend of Ricky Bobby. That’s right; I’m going to the Will Ferrell well two weeks in a row. When I chose Anchorman for last week’s column, I had no idea about the Cubs’ Anchorman-themed road trip. Sometimes the universe just randomly aligns. Joe Maddon could be involved.
Maybe it’s the cosmic will of the universe, or maybe it’s all just a coincidence. At any rate, it’s time to shake and bake this week’s Fantasy Baseball news. We’re two months into the season, and there are multiple topics of interest. So remember Ricky Bobby’s eloquent endorsement for Big Red, and here are the Week 9 Hot Topics.
Week 9 Hot Topics
Hot Topic No. 1: “I wake up in the morning and I piss excellence.”
Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Ricky Bobby’s statement of self-affirmation best described Mike Trout’s 2017 season. Until he got hurt, that is. With all the injuries these days, I feel like its Fantasy Football instead of Fantasy Baseball.
That loud, unnerving sound you heard on May 29 was the internet gasping when Mike Trout left the game with a hand injury. As I said in last week’s column regarding Freddie Freeman, there are few things more terrifying in baseball than seeing a hitter leave a game clutching his hand. If you’re a Fantasy owner and it’s one of your players, you basically become a nervous wreck until you get the official word.
For Mike Trout, the word is a torn UCL in his left thumb. He will undergo surgery and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. If you’re a Mike Trout owner or a baseball fan in general, this just sucks. Like Freddie Freeman, there really is no silver lining here. Except maybe that the AL MVP race just opened up.
For both Fantasy owners and Angels fans, you know you can’t replace Mike Trout. Not only was Mike Trout a consensus number one overall pick in drafts this year, he was off to the best start of his career. No matter how good your waiver wire skills are, a .337 AVG/36 R/16 HR/36 RBI/10 SB stat line is not just hanging around out there.
That being said, all is not lost. Mike Trout’s recovery estimate points to a July/August return, and Andrelton Simmons only missed five weeks with a similar injury last season. As long as there’s even a chance he returns, you’re not cutting Mike Trout in a redraft league. Like Ricky Bobby delivering pizzas, you’re just going to have to manage for a while.
From a baseball perspective, maybe it’s time teams started to ban head-first slides. They’re almost as bad as sliding into first base. Like a quarterback diving for that extra yard and taking a massive shot, any time you see a head-first slide you just hope nobody gets hurt. And like trying to intelligently explain the plot of Prometheus, there’s a lot more that can go wrong than right.
If you’re a dispossessed Mike Trout owner, there are some interesting OF possibilities out there. Cameron Maybin, David Peralta, Domingo Santana, and Hunter Renfroe are all owned in less than 50% of ESPN and Yahoo leagues. None of these guys will ever be confused with Mike Trout, but they all have upside and could give you a boost during the next two months. For more waiver wire options, check out the SCFE Waiver Wire column by Dennis Sosic.
Hot Topic No. 2: “Help me Tom Cruise! Help me Oprah Winfrey!”
Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies
Ricky Bobby’s plea following his desperate request for divine protection from the invisible fire tells the Story so far. Pun intended.
For the first four months of the 2016 season, Trevor Story was the story in Fantasy Baseball. A former prospect who grabbed the starting SS job in spring training, I snagged Trevor Story for $1 in my auction league and as my last pick overall in several snake draft leagues. Needless to say, I felt pretty good about myself. Like Ricky Bobby, I thought I could live to be 245, maybe 300. Anything was possible.
Despite a thumb injury bringing his 2016 season to a premature close, I was excited about keeping Trevor Story for $6 in my auction league. After a .272 AVG/67 R/27 HR/72 RBI/8 SB stat line in 97 games, who wouldn’t be excited?
Let’s just say the second chapter of the Story (last bad pun, I promise) has disappointed so far. Like Joel Schumacher putting nips on Batman-level disappointing. If you don’t get that reference, you haven’t seen Fanboys. Shame on you. At any rate, Trevor Story was mercifully placed on the DL on May 11. With a .180 AVG and 37.5% strikeout rate, maybe the DL was the best thing for him. Maybe he was playing hurt the whole way, or maybe he just needed a mental break.
From a positive standpoint, we always knew Story was a free-swinger. No one would ever project him as a .300 hitter, but the power is real. He also plays half his games in Coors Field. Forgetting that is like getting involved in a land war in Asia. Never pass up a Princess Bride reference when you have the chance. Or a fez (thank you Matt Smith).
Here’s the biggest reason for optimism – Story has a hilariously low .246 BABIP. Expect some positive regression to the mean. He’s also homered twice in his first week off the DL. He’s going to strike out, but the skills are there. If there’s a panicky owner in your league, maybe you can get a great Story at a cheap price. Sorry, did the bad pun thing again.
Hot Topic No. 3: “So when you say psychosomatic, you mean like he could start a fire with his thoughts?”
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Like Trevor Story, Gregory Polanco is another player of whom much was expected this season. Also like Trevor Story, the early returns on Gregory Polanco were underwhelming followed by a trip to the DL.
So what’s the fuss about Gregory Polanco? He might be Eric Davis. If you’re a Fantasy player of a certain age, Eric Davis is almost a myth. A true five-category contributor. If you don’t know, check out the stats; I’ll wait. Then check out any footage of Gregory Polanco with the Indianapolis Indians. We’re talking Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson-level dominance.
A hitter that can give you stats in all 5X5 hitting categories is as rare as a smart teenager in a horror film. Gregory Polanco has those skills, which means he will be Fantasy relevant until conclusively proved otherwise.
Before heading to the DL on May 17, let’s just say Polanco was not setting the world on fire. Waiting until May 11 for his first HR did not exactly inspire confidence. Like Cal Naughton, Jr.’s misguided inquiry about Ricky Bobby’s health, maybe it was all in his head.
In many ways, baseball is all about routine. Being moved to the cleanup spot for the first time and then playing musical chairs in the outfield thanks to the Starling Marte suspension is disruptive to say the least. Perhaps Polanco needed some time to adjust. Hello 10-Day DL.
Like Ricky Bobby learning to go fast again, maybe the time off was just what Polanco needed. He has two HRs in first two games back from the DL. Don’t forget his still-respectable .340 OBP despite his .265 AVG. He gets on base, and he’s faster than Walt Flanagan’s dog (rejoice, Kevin Smith fans). There’s still time left for the breakout season that many Fantasy owners were counting on.
So is Gregory Polanco a buy-low candidate if you’re looking to make a move? Absolutely he is. He has five-category skills, and that is always worth a gamble. Maybe his time on the DL also gave him a needed mental reset.
INJURY UPDATE – Just as I was finishing this segment on May 29, I received an ESPN injury notification on my phone. Of course, it was Gregory Polanco being carted off the field with an ankle injury. I am really starting to dread hearing the ESPN theme on my phone. I wonder if ESPN thought this through. Do they really want Fantasy owners associating their theme with bad news? Anyway, the Pirates are saying nothing is broken and Gregory Polanco should avoid the DL. We’ll just have to wait and see. For all the news on players headed to the DL or making their return, head over to the Injury Report provided by Dylan Tully.
Hot Topic No. 4: “I’m too drunk to taste this chicken.”
Alex Wood, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Ricky Bobby’s Colonel Sanders quote (I’m pretty sure it’s made up) in response to a William Blake quote describes Alex Wood’s recent emergence. Many Fantasy owners are asking themselves “where did that come from?”
Actually, it’s not completely shocking. Alex Wood was the Atlanta Braves’ second round draft pick in 2012. By 2014, he was already in the majors and posted an 11-11 record with a 2.78 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 170 Ks in 171.2 IP. Like Ricky Bobby’s early racing career, things were looking bright. So what happened?
After struggling with consistency to start out the 2015 season, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He missed 98 games in 2016 with a left tricep injury, and then got shuffled back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation.
This was where Alex Wood found himself to start the 2017 season. His first two appearances were out of the bullpen, but he was put into the Dodgers’ rotation due to injuries and general uncertainty. The Dodgers gave Alex Wood his shot, and he dominated like Clint Eastwood in the last 15 minutes of Unforgiven. Through 10 appearances (eight starts), Alex Wood sports a 6-0 record with a 1.69 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 60 Ks in 48 IP. What could possibly go wrong?
Oh wait, did I mention Alex Wood has some health issues? Like Game of Thrones making bad things happen to any character you like (or even find remotely interesting), since we’re talking about a Fantasy relevant pitcher there has to be an injury concern. And cue ominous music . . . Alex Wood hits the DL with SC joint inflammation on May 29. You could almost see it coming.
But wait, everybody relax their sphincters (thank you to the late, great Bill Paxton in Predator 2). This is apparently just precautionary and is the new normal for the 10-Day DL. Now teams can be careful with a pitcher, put them on the DL which opens up a roster spot, and only have one missed start. That looks like the plan for Alex Wood.
Until he’s on the mound again, however, Alex Wood owners will be holding their breath. His stuff is legit, and he could be a serious asset for the rest of the season. But just like every episode of Empire, since he’s a pitcher there has to be drama. Stay tuned.
There are your Fantasy Baseball Week 9 Hot Topics. If you’re struggling, there’s still time. Although Ricky Bobby might tell you if you’re not first, you’re last. But like Ricky Bobby’s path to redemption, you can still trap a cougar and drive with it. Until next time, Wu Tang is for the children.
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