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2018 Week 23 Hot Topics: Don’t Throw It To Stone Hands Edition

Fantasy Baseball playoff time is here for some, and is a week away for others. If you made the playoffs, I salute your efforts. If you’re missing out, this can be a valuable time for reflection and analysis to prepare for next year’s success. See what I did there? It’s all about keeping things positive.

2018 Week 23 Hot Topics
Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Welcome to SCFE’s 2018 Week 23 Hot Topics. Fantasy Baseball playoff time is here for some, and is a week away for others. If you made the playoffs, I salute your efforts. If you’re missing out, this can be a valuable time for reflection and analysis to prepare for next year’s success. See what I did there? It’s all about keeping things positive.

Although it’s the most exciting time in Fantasy Baseball, I have to acknowledge the metaphorical elephant in the room. College football is underway, and the NFL is right behind. That’s right; it’s football time. And there was much rejoicing. Yay. What can I say; I’m like Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor with a fez. I can’t pass up a Monty Python and the Holy Grail reference.

Since it’s college football kickoff time, I figured I go with my favorite college football movie. If you don’t get the title of the column, you need to see Necessary Roughness. Even though I’m apathetic towards college football, I’ll always watch Necessary Roughness when it’s on. It’s an Independence Day/Citizen Kane All-Star.

College football fans might ask, “how dare you not be obsessed with college football?” Here’s why; I’m a graduate of Indiana University. I can almost feel the looks of sympathy. At IU, football is not even an afterthought to basketball. It’s more of a morbid curiosity. When I was in college, Saturday morning Century Club was more important than the game itself. Good times.

No matter how you feel towards college football, Necessary Roughness will make you smile. Released in 1991, Necessary Roughness is a sports comedy about the fictional Texas State Armadillos football team. After winning multiple national championships, Texas State is found guilty of numerous violations. Steroid abuse, illegal payments, and grade fixing. I think the NCAA calls that “Monday.”

Texas State’s punishment? The school can only field a team of actual students. Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap is one my all-time favorite tv shows), Jason Bateman, Sinbad and others show up as the ragtag group of underdog players. Football hijinks and one-liners ensue. “If this wasn’t friggin astro-turf, I’d dig a grave for myself!”

Needless to say, Necessary Roughness finishes with a sports movie feel-good ending. But even though it might be cliched, it’s a good time the whole way. Watching Necessary Roughness always makes me smile. Whether you’re stressing out over the Fantasy Baseball playoffs or kicking yourself for finishing out of the money, Necessary Roughness can put you in the right frame of mind.

Here are the Fantasy Baseball 2018 Week 23 Hot Topics.

2018 Week 23 Hot Topics

Hot Topic No. 1: “Now, let’s analyze what’s been working for us.”

Kevin Gausman, SP, Atlanta Braves

If you know the rest of this quote from Necessary Roughness’s take on the big game halftime speech (it’s really more of a comedic rant), you know what was working for Kevin Gausman in Baltimore. Really nothing.

This reminds me of the last time the Baltimore Orioles gave up on a struggling 27-year old SP with potential. You might have heard of him. Jake Arrieta or something. I’m sure Orioles fans are nodding sadly. Cubs fans, on the other hand, have a much different recollection.

Let’s set the Wayback Machine for 2013, when the Cubs were still in full-on tanking/rebuilding mode. At this point the Cubs were still accumulating draft picks and flipping any marketable MLB talent for prospects and flyers. Part of Theo Epstein’s grand plan was not only acquiring prospects in their teens and early-20’s, but also snagging older former prospects that other teams were ready to unload.

In 2013, Jake Arrieta was a 27-year old former fifth-round pick of the Orioles. In 2012, Jake Arrieta put up a 3-9/6.20 ERA/1.37 WHIP/109 K stat line in 114.2 IP. Yes; the overall numbers were ugly. But the Cubs saw that Jake Arrieta could generate Ks. You can teach mechanics and strategy. You can’t teach skills.

On July 2, 2013, the Cubs traded Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger to the Orioles for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. And the rest is history. That’s not even a trade; that’s a mugging. As a Cubs fan, you almost feel sorry. Almost.

Fast forward to this season. Kevin Gausman is a 27-year old former first-round (4th overall) pick of the Orioles. His 2017 stat line: 11-12/4.68 ERA/1.49 WHIP/179 Ks in 186.2 IP. Poor overall numbers; but the Ks are solid. On July 31, 2018, the Orioles traded Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to the Atlanta Braves for a collection of prospects.

Prior to the trade, Kevin Gausman posted a 5-8/4.43 ERA/1.38 WHIP/104 K stat line in 124.0 IP. Since the trade: 4-1/1.66 ERA/0.87 WHIP/26 Ks in 38.0 IP through September 3. At least the Orioles got prospects this time.

Are we seeing any parallels here? Both Jake Arrieta and Kevin Gausman were traded at age 27. They both featured solid stuff; but inconsistent results. Both had reached “former prospect” status. And both went to NL teams from the AL East. Never underestimate the positive effects of getting out of the pitching chamber of horrors that is the AL East.

So what’s the moral of the story here? If you’re an Orioles fan, you’re probably heading for Ron Burgundy’s glass cage of emotion. Watching another pitcher have success after being traded might be too difficult to watch. Maybe the Orioles should invest more resources into developing pitching. Other than Jim Palmer and Mike Mussina, name a great Orioles SP in the last 40 years. Just saying. From a baseball perspective, sometimes “change of scenery” is not just a cliché. Some players just figure it out after getting traded.

Is Kevin Gausman going to be Jake Arrieta 2.0? It’s still too early to make that call. There’s still a long way to go, and we’re dealing with a small sample size. From a Fantasy Baseball perspective, that’s not really the concern right now. It’s Fantasy Baseball playoff time, and you don’t care about next season. You just need someone who produces during the last four weeks of the season. And right now, Kevin Gausman is producing.

Kevin Gausman is currently owned in 77% of ESPN leagues and 73% of Yahoo leagues. If you need pitching help and he’s still out there on the waiver wire, you should be giving Kevin Gausman serious consideration. If you’re an Orioles fan, maybe you can at least get some Fantasy Baseball satisfaction.

Since I’m using this week’s column to grudgingly acknowledge the onset of Fantasy Football, I really should direct everyone to SCFE’s excellent Fantasy Football content. If Fantasy Football is your particular idiom (going back to the Monty Python well), SCFE’s talented football writers have the info you need. If you’re gearing up for any last-minute drafts, check out the Value-Based Drafting strategy article provided by Michael Tomlin.

Hot Topic No. 2: “Hey Papke, you finally threw something that connected!”

Tyler White, 1B, Houston Astros

Embed from Getty Images

Papke is the backup QB in Necessary Roughness. He’s not very good. In fact, he’s so bad that he doesn’t even get a first name in the movie. Because he throws like Edward Scissorhands (actual line from the movie), the team has to go get a 34-year old to play QB (Scott Bakula’s Paul Blake). A 34-year old college QB? It’s called suspension of disbelief; just go with it. Besides, maybe he knew Elvis (another actual line from the movie).

At any rate, this quote happens after Papke punches someone out during a bar brawl. Get it? He’s not a very good QB. But he’s apparently good to have around in a fight. Papke just needed the right opportunity to contribute. You could say the same about Tyler White. He just needed the right opportunity.

Heading into this season, Tyler White was looking like a “AAAA” player. I use that term for players who can put up numbers in the minors, but can’t replicate them at the MLB level. It’s like actors who draw big tv ratings, but can’t do better than minor roles in movies.

Typically, these players get called up as short-term injury replacements. They also get called up following trades when the team has no one else at the position for the rest of the season. These brief opportunities are usually followed by a trip back to the minors. Sometimes, however, these players put it together and stick around. Kind of like Ryan Reynolds getting Deadpool right after Green Lantern and Chris Evans getting Captain America right after Johnny Storm. Remember that? Most people try not to.

Tyler White was drafted in the 33rd round of the 2013 draft by the Houston Astros. In 2015, he put up a .325 AVG/.442 OBP/70 R/14 HR/99 RBI/1 SB stat line in 116 games between AA and AAA. He also went for a .300 AVG/.371 OBP/84 R/25 HR/89 RBI/7 SB line in 2017. Although he had MLB stints during 2016 and 2017, he wound up back in the minors.

Of course, the ridiculously loaded Astros lineup may have had something to do with it. Just maybe. Due to a combination of injuries and slumps, however, the Astros decided to give Tyler White another shot and brought him up on July 29. You could say he responded to the opportunity. You could also say Deadpool 2 was moderately violent.

For the week of August 27 through September 3, Tyler White went off for a .333 AVG/5 R/3 HR/10 RBI stat line. Overall, he’s sporting a .306 AVG/19 R/11 HR/29 RBI MLB line in 43 games through September 3. He’s probably getting holiday cards this Winter from grateful Fantasy Baseball owners who picked him up in the last few weeks and made the playoffs.

Tyler White is currently owned in 46% of ESPN leagues and 44% of Yahoo leagues. Has Tyler White really figured things out, or is he just on a hot streak? From a Fantasy Baseball perspective, that’s irrelevant. It’s Fantasy Baseball playoff time. There is no long term at this point.

If a player’s raking right now, he needs to be considered. Maybe it won’t last more than a few weeks, but that’s all that’s left. You’re not looking for future improvement. The regression police might be on the way; you just hope that they don’t show up until after the season. If you’re trying to win the Fantasy Baseball playoffs, don’t look for great players. Look for players that are great right now. If you need CI help, Tyler White fits the bill.

There are your Fantasy Baseball 2018 Week 23 Hot Topics. Fantasy Football may be on its way, but there’s still serious Fantasy Baseball to be played. Since football is here and it’s unavoidable, you may as well have fun with it. Have some football fun with Necessary Roughness while preparing for the Fantasy Baseball endgame. And there ain’t no brawl.

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

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