Welcome back to the SCFE Week 24 Hot Topics column. September is here, and it’s playoff time in Fantasy Baseball. If your teams made the playoffs; job well done. You’re halfway to the goal. If your teams are on the outside looking in; at least Fantasy Football is starting. That probably doesn’t make you feel much better. Sorry about that.
If you’re in the playoffs, every decision is magnified from here on out. Forget the about the standings, forget about the regular season. None of that matters anymore. It’s just you and your playoff opponent. You’re in the Thunderdome. “Two men enter; one man leaves.” Simple as that.
The Fantasy Baseball regular season is like a marathon. The playoffs, on the other hand, are a street fight. If you need to bash your opponent over the head with a metaphorical garbage can, then that’s what you do. Like the Cobra Kai – strike hard, strike fast, no mercy.
Since the playoffs are like a fight, I figured Bloodsport would be a good choice for this week’s column. If you’ve never heard of Bloodsport, your knowledge of 1980’s cinema is sadly incomplete.
Released in 1988, Bloodsport was Jean-Claude Van Damme’s first major American movie. He plays Frank Dux (pronounced like “put up your dukes!” That’s actually a line from the film), a U.S. soldier who goes to Hong Kong to fight in a secret full-contact martial arts tournament called the Kumite.
Of course, the Kumite is so “secret” that everyone (including reporters and police!) seems to know about it. Hey, it’s a movie; suspension of disbelief. At any rate, Bloodsport is a like a checklist of 1980’s sports/action movie clichés. And it’s awesome.
A noble/outsider hero. A wise/brutal mentor. A buddy who provides comic relief. A flashback and training montage. An unbeatable opponent (who also cheats). An elite/secret competition. Any of this sound familiar? Combined with gloriously cheesy dialogue, an underrated classic 1980’s theme song (Fight to Survive!), and fight scenes that were ahead of their time, Bloodsport is an Independence Day/Citizen Kane All-Star.
If you want to get pumped up and inspired for the playoffs, Bloodsport is what you need. Just remember that bricks don’t hit back.
Here are the SCFE Fantasy Baseball Week 24 Hot Topics.
Week 24 Hot Topics
Hot Topic No. 1: “Anytime, anyplace, anywhere.”
Alex Bregman, 3B/SS, Houston Astros
This quote from Donald Gibb’s (Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds) Ray Jackson sums up what Alex Bregman can do for a Fantasy Baseball lineup. He contributes in multiple categories, and he’s eligible at multiple positions. He was also probably sitting on the waiver wire in your league at some point this season.
Alex Bregman was the second overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Astros. Along with George Springer (11th overall) in 2011 and Carlos Correa (first overall) in 2012, the Astros have scored in the first round of the MLB draft when it comes to offense.
After rocketing through the minors like Darth Vader annihilating anyone in his way at the end of Rogue One, Alex Bregman was called up on July 25, 2016. For the rest of the season, Alex Bregman posted a .264 AVG/31 R/8 HR/34 RBI/2 SB stat line in 201 ABs. Not bad for a 22-year old rookie with basically one year of professional baseball experience.
But here’s the thing; like the first several episodes of Community, Alex Bregman starts slow. After going 1-for-34 at the plate to start his MLB career, Alex Bregman hit .311 for the rest of 2016.
He was a popular sleeper pick heading into 2017. But if someone’s a “popular” sleeper; are they really a “sleeper” anymore? Discuss amongst yourselves. Alex Bregman was probably drafted in your league this year, but the owner who drafted him might have given up.
Like 2016, Alex Bregman started slowly in 2017. The .250 AVG in April and .215 AVG in June led some owners to cut bait. For example, I picked up Alex Bregman in my auction league on June 28 after the owner who drafted him threw in the towel.
As with the first several episodes of Community, sometimes patience pays off. After June, Alex Bregman hit .329 in July and .345 in August. For this season, Alex Bregman has posted a .284 AVG/.355 OBP/77 R/16 HR/57 RBI/16 SB stat line through September 9.
The 16 SBs may not seem like a ton. But keep in mind that 31 SBs is leading the entire AL as of September 9. You read that right. Alex Bregman is also on track for a 20 HR/20 SB season. In recent years, 20/20 players are about as rare a sight as Donny Most rising from the mist. That’s probably my favorite obscure Family Guy reference right there.
Keep in mind that Alex Bregman is still just 23-years old. With 3B/SS eligibility, he’s got MI and CI covered. The power is still developing, and the Astros’ lineup generates tons of scoring opportunities. In the next few seasons, Alex Bregman could develop into the mythical Five Category Contributor.
When it comes to movies like Bloodsport, the expression about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure applies. Kind of like another owner giving up on Alex Bregman too soon and then you snatching him off the waiver wire. If you win your league with Alex Bregman, you might thank that owner. The other owner may not share your good humor, however. Just saying.
Hot Topic No. 2: “You are next!”
Luke Weaver, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
No, this is not a Goldberg quote. If you thought it was, go to time out. I’m serious. MLB hitters facing Luke Weaver for the past month probably feel like they’re looking at Bolo Yeung’s Chong Li giving the quote above. Intimidating stuff.
Luke Weaver was the Cardinals’ first-round (27th overall) draft pick in 2014. At the time, he was considered a “polished college arm.” In other words, “he should be a competent pitcher and get to the majors quickly, but you’re probably not looking at a future ace.” Sometimes, however, looks can be deceiving.
Despite being overshadowed by mega prospect Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver established himself as one of the Cardinals’ top pitching prospects heading into 2017. After missing the first two months of the 2016 season with a broken wrist suffered in spring training, Luke Weaver returned with a vengeance.
Between Double-A and Triple-A, Luke Weaver posted a 7-3/1.30 ERA/0.93 WHIP/92 K stat line in 83 IP. After that performance, he was promoted to the Show on August 13, 2016. During his 2016 MLB cup of coffee, Luke Weaver produced a 1-4/5.70 ERA/1.60 WHIP/45 K stat line in 36.1 IP. While those numbers may seem ugly on the surface, there is more than meets the eye. I said that on purpose.
Luke Weaver’s 2016 MLB stats were skewed by a nonsensical .394 BABIP. Like the Shockmaster (old school wrestling fans; there you go), Luke Weaver had an unlucky debut. The Ks, however, were for real. Luke Weaver was looking like a 2017 super sleeper.
To say Luke Weaver did not seize an opportunity in spring training would be like saying Game of Thrones can be a little violent. With a 12.60 ERA, Luke Weaver punched his ticket to the minors to start 2017. His 2017 minor league numbers showed he was ready: 10-2/2.55 ERA/1.06 WHIP/76 Ks in 77.2 IP.
After being yo-yo-ed between St. Louis and Triple-A twice in July, Luke Weaver seemed to be in a holding pattern. He was called up again on August 17, but like the emotional stability of characters on Empire, his place was anything but certain.
After back-to-back 10 K performances on August 23 and August 29, Fantasy Baseball owners were looking for a sign from the Cardinals that Luke Weaver would stick around. When the Cardinals traded Mike Leake on August 30, that seemed like it.
In four starts since his August 17 promotion, Luke Weaver has put up a 4-0/1.43 ERA/1.03 WHIP 36 K stat line in 25.1 IP. Sure, it’s a small sample size. But if you needed pitching last month and you picked up Luke Weaver, you really don’t care.
It’s always a gamble with rookie pitchers down the stretch. With outstanding control (career 1.07 WHIP in the minors), Luke Weaver is a solid gamble. His fastball runs 93-94 MPH but can touch 96-98. His changeup is wicked, and his cutter is improving. There’s a lot to like here.
If Luke Weaver is still out there on the waiver wire in your league (31% unowned in Yahoo leagues and 30% unowned in ESPN leagues), he is the kind of late-season addition that can take you to the promise land.
Hot Topic No. 3: “Aren’t you a little young for full-contact? Aren’t you a little old for video games?”
James Paxton, SP, Seattle Mariners
This quote really has nothing to do with James Paxton. It just makes me chuckle. I miss 1980’s action movie banter. I get it; it’s not Shakespeare. I still love it.
Back to baseball, 2017 was shaping up to be the breakout season for James Paxton that Fantasy Baseball owners have been waiting on. The question was never about ability with James Paxton; it was always about health. Kind of like Fantasy Football owners who drafted Fred Taylor every year. Remember him?
After missing time with injuries in 2014, 2015, and 2016, James Paxton was looking like damaged goods. If you drafted him, it probably didn’t take much draft capital. His 2016 metrics (8.2 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9) made it a worthwhile flyer. You just had to look past the injury history and think happy thoughts.
After James Paxton dominated April this year with a 1.39 ERA, Fantasy Baseball owners who took the flyer were feeling good about themselves. Even though he missed most of May with a left forearm strain, James Paxton was back by the end of the month and healthy through June and July. James Paxton owners were cautiously optimistic.
And then on August 11, James Paxton hit the DL with a strained left pectoral muscle. Like early cancellations of new fall tv shows, it almost seemed inevitable. Prior to the injury, James Paxton posted a 12-3/2.78 ERA/1.08 WHIP/138 K stat line in 119.2 IP. Losing those numbers hurts, especially so close to the Fantasy Baseball playoffs.
The injury was not considered season-ending, however, and the reports said James Paxton would likely return before the season was over. As of September 9, James Paxton is expected to be activated from the DL and will start against the Astros on September 15.
Should you immediately reinsert James Paxton into your lineup? That’s one you’re going to have to ponder, especially if you’re in a weekly league. His first start back will be against the Astros, who can wreck pitchers like Tommy Boy destroyed Richard’s car. He is also expected to be subject to a 50-pitch limit.
Unless you’re desperate for SP help, discretion might be the better part of valor when it comes to starting James Paxton this week. In daily leagues, it would probably depend on what kinds of pitching stats you need when Friday rolls around.
Despite the health concerns, the skills are undeniable. If James Paxton stays healthy and gets hot, he can carry your pitching staff in the last two weeks. Remember, you held onto him when he got hurt for a reason.
Alex Bregman, Luke Weaver, and James Paxton are all likely already owned in your league. You might as well check, however. You never know.
There are the Fantasy Baseball Week 24 Hot Topics. Whether or not you made the playoffs, I hope it’s been a fun season for you. If you’re in the playoffs, remember that fortune favors the bold. Don’t doubt yourself. Until next time, stay on target.
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