Welcome to the Week 2 Hot Topics article. It’s 2017 and the baseball season is underway, so you better get ready for a brand new day. Can you tell I’m a Cubs fan? After the nirvana of seeing the championship banner raised at Wrigley Field, I remembered once more why I love baseball.
For Fantasy Baseball players, the start of a new season is a time of excitement and anticipation. Last season’s triumphs have been savored, and last year’s disappointments have been lamented. Draft season is done, and everyone (hopefully) can’t wait to see how their teams will produce this year.
Now that spring training is finished and the games count for real, Fantasy Baseball owners welcome back their in-season routines. Like reuniting with an absent friend, we jump right back into our daily ritual of checking scores and lineups, monitoring injuries, and scanning the waiver wire.
Of course, with only about 4% of the season’s games played after the first week, it is more than a tad premature to draw definitive conclusions. When dealing with a small sample size of data, any results should be taken with a grain of salt. No matter what happens, it is way too early to start panicking or to take a victory lap. For example, in 1994 Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes hit three HRs on opening day for the Cubs off Dwight Gooden. For the season, he finished with eight HRs. So there’s that.
With that qualification in mind, here are some Fantasy Baseball Hot Topics from the first week of the 2017 season.
Week 2 Hot Topics
Hot Topic No. 1: Today we spell redemption B-U-N-D-Y
Dylan Bundy, SP, Baltimore Orioles
Thank you, Wes Mantooth. Adapting this quote from Anchorman summarizing Ron Burgundy’s journey of self-discovery and return to prominence seemed appropriate for Dylan Bundy. Of course to make the journey complete he still needs to fight a bear, but I digress.
Dylan Bundy was a 2011 first round draft pick (4th overall) of the Orioles, and he was added to the 40-man roster by the end of that season. By 2012, he already had a cup of coffee with the big club at age 20. Here was the write-up for Dylan Bundy in Ron Shandler’s 2013 Baseball Forecaster:
0-0, 0.00 ERA in 2 IP at BAL. Began year with 13 hitless IP in Low-A, ended it by getting Colby Rasmus to hit into a DP in Camden Yards. Has three plus pitches, mechanics, command, control. Precious few prospects earn a 10C rating in these pages. It may not happen this year, but get your wallets out now.
In case you’re wondering, that “10C” rating meant the Baseball Forecaster gave Dylan Bundy a 50/50 chance of being a hall of famer. Wow.
Needless to say, prospect enthusiasts and dynasty league owners took notice. Unfortunately, for the next few seasons Dylan Bundy’s life was more like Al Bundy’s. Tommy John surgery, lat strains, elbow soreness, and shoulder calcification issues led to Dylan Bundy getting shut down more times than a loud frat party.
Despite all this, some of us still clung to hope. In 2016, it looked like he was finally healthy and made the team, but the Orioles decided to put him in the bullpen to start the season. In the second half, however, the Orioles moved him into the rotation and gave him his shot. While his overall numbers in 2016 were not exceptional (10 W/104 K/4.02 ERA/1.38 WHIP in 109.2 IP), there were flashes of brilliance. More importantly, he was healthy and stayed that way.
Although Dylan Bundy had a lousy spring (yet another example of how spring training stats are meaningless), his first regular season start was vindication for those who still believed: 7 IP/4 H/1 ER/0 BB/8 K on 99 pitches with a W against the Toronto Blue Jays. Even more encouraging, he was throwing his cutter/slider again and throwing it for strikes. This was his best pitch in high school, but apparently the Orioles had an organizational rule against that pitch, so he was not allowed to throw it after being drafted.
One of the most important lessons in life is to learn from our mistakes. Perhaps the Orioles learned their lesson about not letting their pitchers throw their best pitches a few years back. If you remember, they traded away another promising young pitcher in the same boat for the immortal Scott Feldman. That pitcher’s name was Jake Arrieta; you may have heard of him (sorry Orioles fans, too soon?). In short, letting a pitcher throw his best pitch might be a good idea.
I know it’s only one start as of this article being written, and I keep telling myself “small sample size!” But still, it’s almost like Dylan Bundy is saying “thank you for your patience” to every Fantasy owner who kept the faith these past few years.
Dylan Bundy is currently owned in 61% of ESPN leagues and 68% of Yahoo leagues. If he is still sitting out there in your league, you should probably act now. If you’re in need of any other pitching assistance, you should check out the Pitching Planner provided by Scott Guthrie.
Hot Topic No. 2: When in Danger, when in Doubt – run in circles, scream and shout!
Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals
This gem from Mystery Science Theater 3000 popped into my head when I read the words “Trea Turner” and “leg injury” in the same sentence. After that, I went blank for a few minutes.
In my auction league (with keepers), I am known as something of a prospect hound. Nearing the end of last year’s draft, another owner jokingly asked me, “are you going to get your prospects now?” I remember thinking to myself “yes, and watch this.” I then proceeded to snag Trea Turner and Trevor Story for $1 each. As you can imagine, I kept them both for $6 apiece this year.
Although he was overdrafted in redraft leagues this year (Carlos Correa last year, anyone?), you could see why. Despite a ridiculously delayed 2016 callup due to Dusty Baker’s irrational hatred of rookie hitters, Trea Turner exploded onto the scene with a .342 AVG/53 R/13 HR/40 RBI/33 SB stat line in 307 AB. With speed at a premium this year, you can see why Fantasy Baseball owners were willing to take the plunge.
The skills are there, but hamstring injuries to speed guys are frightening. Not only do they affect the most important skill (speed), but they can linger. When the Nationals changed the diagnosis from pulled hamstring to strained hamstring and placed him on the 10-day DL, I tried to think happy thoughts. While the Nationals are saying all the right things and that his placement on the DL is really precautionary to avoid the injury lingering, no one will feel secure until Trea Turner is back on the field and running wild.
When it comes to Trea Turner right now, my advice is to pick up a copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and read the big words in big friendly letters on the cover. If you’re a BASEketball fan, maybe try doing the happy dance. Just stay calm, and we’ll all get through this. For more on Trea Turner’s status and all things injury-related, check out the Injury Report from Dylan Tully.
Hot Topic No. 3: You were right about Miguel Sano in 2016, just ahead of your time
Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
How many people jumped on the hoverboard bandwagon before realizing: (1) they didn’t actually hover; and (2) had an unfortunate tendency to catch fire? Probably about the same number of Fantasy Baseball players who hopped on the Miguel Sano bandwagon in last year’s drafts.
Last year, Miguel Sano was one of the hot names heading into draft season. A young slugger with what many thought was a Minnesota Twins team on the rise. Combined with other top prospects (Byron Buxton) and the newest import (Byung Ho Park), there was legitimate interest in the Minnesota Twins 2016 lineup from the Fantasy Baseball community.
Unfortunately, the Twins stumbled out of the gate last year, and then proceeded to trip, fall down, and knocked themselves out trying to get up. The Twins finished 2016 with a 59-103 record; the worst in the majors. Like getting a Jar Jar Binks tattoo before actually seeing The Phantom Menace, Fantasy Baseball owners who went heavy on young Minnesota Twins hitters felt burned, to say the least.
Miguel Sano did hit 25 HRs in 2016, but the rest of his stat line (.236 AVG/57 R/66 RBI/1 SB to go along with whiffing 178 times) mirrored the ugliness of the Twins’ season. He was also dogged by nagging injuries and the dreaded questions about work ethic. If you watched Miguel Sano at all last season, he never really looked comfortable. Maybe playing out of position had something to do with it.
Fast forward in 2017, and Fantasy owners were understandably cautious when it came to Miguel Sano. If you got him for a bargain in your draft, take a bow at least for this week. Through April 9, Miguel Sano was hitting .350 with two HRs, eight RBI, as well as leading the American League in OPS.
Is the scorching start for real? There’s no doubt the power is legit, but you can expect that AVG to come down (his 60% contact rate tells you there’s a lot of work to be done). The walk rate is very good (12%), however, so that may counteract some of the swing-and-miss tendencies. If the Twins continue to improve as a team (5-1 through the first week), the opportunities for counting stats will also be there. While you can’t take anything for granted after one week, Miguel Sano looks like he could pay serious dividends this year. So 2016 owners of Miguel Sano can take heart; maybe you were right about him, just a year early. I Hope that helps.
Hot Topic No. 4: Vote of confidence = Kiss of death?
Sam Dyson, RP, Texas Rangers
If you’ve ever paid attention to kickers, closers, coaches, managers, and general managers, you know that a vote of confidence from their boss essentially means, “you screw up one more time and you’re done like dinner.” For people struggling in these jobs, when someone with the power to remove them says they’re doing a fine job or they’re not going anywhere, you should picture a robot waiving its arms and shouting “Danger Will Robinson!”
Like Jimmy Pappas from The Departed, Sam Dyson had a rough week. A grand total of two IP with eight ERs allowed, three walks and one K. Ouch, that’s gotta hurt. Dyson owners are now probably as nervous as a Red Shirt heading down the long dark corridor at the beginning of an old-school Star Trek episode. And of course, he received the vote of confidence from his manager.
Remembering last season, Shawn Tolleson began the season as the Rangers’ closer. After giving up five ERs in the third game of the season, he lost the job to … wait for it, Sam Dyson. Uh-oh. It looks like Dyson will be given the opportunity to right the ship, but itchy trigger fingers from Fantasy owners are understandable. It might be time for a handcuff, just in case.
Dyson owners feeling anxious and those looking to pick up potential closers should be eyeing Matt Bush (would “70’s” be a good nickname for him? Just asking) and Jeremy Jeffress on the waiver wire.
There you have it, some of the hot topics from the first week of MLB action. As I said at the beginning, the small sample size of a few games dictates caution in making any conclusions. Will the trends for the players above hold up? Maybe yes, maybe no; but the situations are worth monitoring. In the meantime, rejoice that baseball is back and get ready for the Doctor Who season premiere on April 15. Until next week, keep it Brockmire.
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