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2018 Week 13 Hot Topics: Great Scott Edition

This past week was particularly zany. We actually saw MLB’s version of time travel. As someone who stays up late to see the clocks change when Daylight Savings Time switches, I’m always up for a good time travel story.

2018 Week 13 Hot Topics
Photo Credit: Tony Hisgett

Welcome to SCFE’s 2018 Week 13 Hot Topics. Although I may be risking karma’s wrath with a week 13 column, I’m willing to tempt fate for the loyal readers out there. We’re nearly three months into the Fantasy Baseball season, and we’ve seen our fair share of craziness.

This past week was particularly zany. We actually saw MLB’s version of time travel. As someone who stays up late to see the clocks change when Daylight Savings Time switches, I’m always up for a good time travel story. That’s why Back to the Future seemed perfect for this week’s column.

Released in 1985, Back to the Future is another 1980’s classic movie and has become a lexicon of pop culture references. It’s also proof that high concept science fiction fare can play to a mass audience. Not to mention a classic 80’s soundtrack featuring Huey Lewis and the News, a quintessential 1980’s band. If you want to know about Huey Lewis and the News, ask Patrick Bateman. Just watch out for the ax.

Back to the Future probably best explains the branch theory of time travel. This is actually done on a blackboard by Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown. I normally frown upon sci-fi concepts being outright explained in movie dialogue (I’m looking at you, Star Trek reboot), but I’m ok with it here. Back to the Future is as much a comedic adventure as it is sci-fi. And sometimes you need to help out the nerd-impaired.

The great thing about Back to the Future is that you don’t have to be a sci-fi enthusiast to enjoy yourself. It’s just a fun movie and a relaxing way to spend some time. It also made the DeLorean into an eternally cool car. And don’t forget that Back to the Future Part II (released in 1989) predicted the Cubs would win the World Series in 2015. Missed it by a year.

Sometimes Fantasy Baseball makes us wish we had a time machine. Usually, it’s because we want to go back to draft day and slap ourselves around. While we can’t change the past, however, we can always change the future. The season’s not over. Keep that in mind if your teams are struggling. Things can always turn around.

Let’s kick it up to 88 MPH with the 2018 Week 13 Hot Topics.

2018 Week 13 Hot Topics

Hot Topic No. 1: “We’re sending you back to the future!”

Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals

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Is using the title of a movie in actual movie dialogue corny? Please discuss. Normally I’m not a fan, but I can live with it in this case. On June 18, Juan Soto went back to the future. Or something like that. I’m still confused.

On May 15, Juan Soto was still in Double-A and went 3-4. On the same day, the game between the Nationals and the New York Yankees was suspended in the sixth inning due to thunderstorms. Because the game was tied when it was suspended, it was to be resumed at a later date with the score still tied.

The game was resumed on June 18. Although Juan Soto was in the minors was the game was originally suspended, he was with the Nationals on June 18 and was eligible the play in the resumed game. And then Juan Soto time traveled. He didn’t even need a DeLorean. Or a TARDIS. If time travel is involved, you know I’m throwing in a Doctor Who reference.

After being inserted as a pinch-hitter, Juan Soto hit a two-run HR that won the game for the Nationals. And here’s where you may go cross-eyed. The Nationals-Yankees game officially took place on May 15 (although it was completed later). Juan Soto, however, did not make his MLB debut until May 20. But since the game was completed on June 18, the stats still count.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Juan Soto’s official MLB debut will still be May 20. His first official HR, however, will be on May 15. And it wasn’t even the first HR he actually hit in MLB. That was on May 21. Juan Soto’s first official MLB is really his sixth. I’m guessing it’s asterisk time. Anyone else got a headache yet?

It sounds like time travel to me. Maybe there’s a theoretical physics paper in there somewhere. Whether it’s time travel or not, Juan Soto has unquestionably been one of MLB’s top rookies thus far. And nobody saw it coming. At least this year.

Juan Soto was originally signed by the Nationals as a 16-year old international free agent in 2015. In 2016, he finished his first season in the minors with a .368 AVG/.420 OBP/28 R/5 HR/32 RBI/5 SB stat line in 190 ABs. He was also named MVP of the Gulf Coast League. Ankle and hamstring injuries limited Juan Soto to only 32 games in 2017, but he still finished with a .351 AVG/.415 OBP/18 R/3 HR/18 RBI/1 SB line in 111 ABs.

Although the talent was undeniable, Juan Soto was off the Fantasy Baseball radar heading into 2018. After all, he was coming off an injury. The Nationals also had a loaded OF (Bryce Harper, Michael A. Taylor, Adam Eaton) as well as another OF prospect (Victor Robles) ahead of him. Like Ben Affleck being a credible Batman, however, no one could’ve predicted what happened next.

After the first month of the season, the Nationals’ OF situation looked like the last 15 minutes of Unforgiven. Bodies everywhere. Adam Eaton landed on the DL on April 11. His replacement Howie Kendrick hit the DL on May 20. And this was after Victor Robles, the Nationals’ top OF prospect, went to the DL on April 13.

Maybe it was an act of desperation, but the Nationals promoted Juan Soto to the Show on May 20, and haven’t looked back. Through his first 33 MLB games, Juan Soto has posted a stellar .324 AVG/.434 OBP/22 R/6 HR/16 RBI/1 SB stat line in 108 ABs. This includes a 23 BB/24 K ratio. I think the kid can hit.

Keep in mind that Juan Soto is only 19, and he only had eight games at Double-A before being promoted. That being said, he’s ahead of more well-known names for NL Rookie of the Year and is making Nationals fans less terrified at the prospect of Bryce Harper walking in free agency after this season. There may be some rookie struggles, but owners who snatched Juan Soto off the waiver wire should be doing the happy dance.

For all the news on MLB’s latest crop of rookies, head over to the SCFE Rookie Report provided by Dennis Sosic.

Hot Topic No. 2: “So why don’t you make like a tree . . . and get outta here.”

Hunter Strickland, RP, San Francisco Giants

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You have to love the wisdom of Thomas F. Wilson’s Biff Tannen, the stereotypical 1980’s (and 1950’s) bully. In case you don’t get it, the proper expression is “why don’t you make like a tree . . . and leave.” Actually, I kind of like Biff’s version better.

If you’re a Hunter Strickland owner, you’re probably feeling like Biff right about now. In last week’s column, I discussed the sheer randomness and inherent uncertainty of the closer position. In addition to having the worst job security of any position, closers also seem subject to more bizarre injuries than any other position. Hunter Strickland is the latest example.

In case you missed it, Hunter Strickland hit the DL (pun intended) on June 19; and is expected to miss the next 6-8 weeks with a broken right hand. You might be thinking, “what’s so crazy about that?” Maybe I should explain that he broke his hand by punching a door after a blown save. You read that right.

Heading into this season, Hunter Strickland had put up solid RP numbers for the Giants since his MLB debut in 2014. His career stat line is 14-12/2.67 ERA/1.15 WHIP/203 Ks in 212.1 IP. Nothing wrong with that. You could compare that to Pacific Rim Uprising. Maybe not spectacular, but does the job. You can never go wrong with giant robots fighting giant aliens.

Mark Melancon was expected to be the Giants’ closer to start 2018, but plans changed after he started the season on the DL with a right elbow flexor strain. Enter Hunter Strickland. The Giants gave him the closer job, and he put up a 3-3/2.84 ERA/1.23 WHIP/29 K/13 SV stat line in 31.2 IP. While he may not have run away with the job, he was definitely moving at a fast jog.

And then came the game against the Miami Marlins on June 18. After blowing a save by allowing 3 ER on 3 H and 2 BB in 0.1 IP, Hunter Strickland decided to play Hunter Strickland’s Punch-Out!! to vent his frustration. For the youngsters out there, Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! was a classic video game on the O.G. NES console. There was no ear-biting secret code, however. Too soon?

At any rate, the target of Hunter Strickland’s post-game wrath was a door. As Al Bundy once said, “I’ll give you a tip. Doors are hard.” I’m guessing Hunter Strickland knows that now. Here’s a suggestion; pitchers should use their non-throwing hand if they absolutely have to punch something. Not that I’m condoning violence. It’s just a thought.

Did I mention that the Chicago Cubs also lost closer Brandon Morrow to the DL on June 20 with an injury that boggles the mind? Apparently, Brandon Morrow suffered back spasms while taking off his pants. That’s right up there with Sammy Sosa spraining a back ligament from sneezing. Yes; both these things actually happened. If you tell these things to people who aren’t into baseball, they look at you like your insane.

As I’ve said before, drafting a closer is like throwing a dart. Lack of job security, inconsistent opportunities, and stupefying injuries make closers as unpredictable as the average episode of Empire. Good things might happen, or it might be a flaming train wreck for every character involved.

If you’re a Hunter Strickland owner looking for in-house replacements, it’s probably going to be a carousel of Mark Melancon, Sam Dyson, and Tony Watson. In case you’re wondering, Tony Watson is no relation to Randy Watson. Sexual Chocolate! If you’ve never seen Coming to America, you haven’t lived.

If you’re a Brandon Morrow owner, there probably is no short-term solution. Joe Maddon will likely go with whoever he saw in a dream last night. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

For news on the latest injuries, crazy or not, check out SCFE’s Injury Report also provided by Dennis Sosic.

There are your Fantasy Baseball 2018 Week 13 Hot Topics. The past week proves that anything can, and usually will, happen in baseball. It may cause you to shake your head in bewilderment, but that’s part of the fun. Hopefully, you’re enjoying the show. It definitely keeps things interesting.

Until next time, always never forget to check your references.

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