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2018 Week 9 Hot Topics: Hit The Pace Car Edition

Happy Memorial Day from SCFE’s 2018 Week 9 Hot Topics column. I hope everyone had a relaxing long weekend. Memorial Day kicks off what I like to call the Summer Holiday Season. There’s some quality down time between Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. You can binge watch the shows you missed, indulge yourself in Summer movie blockbusters, and gorge yourself on Fantasy Baseball.

2018 Week 9 Hot Topics
Photo Credit: Lenny

Happy Memorial Day from SCFE’s 2018 Week 9 Hot Topics column. I hope everyone had a relaxing long weekend. Memorial Day kicks off what I like to call the Summer Holiday Season. There’s some quality down time between Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. You can binge watch the shows you missed, indulge yourself in Summer movie blockbusters, and gorge yourself on Fantasy Baseball.

There’s also extended time with friends and family; which is nice. And then there’s the pure joy of glorious, artery-clogging, life-shortening BBQ. Personally, I kicked off the Memorial Day Weekend on Friday with a 10:00 a.m. showing of Solo.

If my opinion means anything to you, I fully recommend Solo and I think it’s better than Rogue One. The humor and inside references are perfect. If you’re wondering about the surprise at the end; watch Clone Wars. And I don’t mean Attack of the Clones.

I didn’t just go see Solo on Friday to take an extra day off work; although that was fun too. If you live in Indianapolis, you find alternate activities for Memorial Day Weekend if you’re not going to the “The Race.” That’s what the Indianapolis 500 is called in Indianapolis. Race Weekend in Indianapolis is like Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, Mardi Gras, the Royal Wedding, and a UFO landing all rolled into one. The Race is kind of a big deal.

In honor of The Greatest Spectacle In Racing, it’s time for a racing-themed column this week. Since I went with Talladega Nights last year, Days of Thunder seemed the obvious choice. Probably the most famous racing movie ever, Days of Thunder reminds you of what a big deal Tom Cruise was. He was in All the Right Moves, Risky Business, Top Gun, Rain Man, The Color of Money, and Born on the Fourth of July before Days of Thunder. Wow. And then he started jumping on couches.

Anyway . . . Fantasy Baseball is in full swing (pun intended), and trends are taking shape. It’s time to make some decisions; and it’s always good to have some entertainment. If you’ve got racing on the brain, you can’t go wrong with Days of Thunder.

Here are the 2018 Week 9 Hot Topics.

2018 Week 9 Hot Topics

Hot Topic No. 1: “Ok, I’m going to pull this rookie’s chain.”

Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

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Released in 1990, Days of Thunder stars Tom Cruise as rookie NASCAR driver Cole Trickle. This quote is from veteran driver Rowdy Burns right before delivers some on-track rookie hazing. The character names in Days of Thunder always make me chuckle. Cole Trickle; Rowdy Burns; Russ Wheeler; Harry Hogge; Buck Bretherton. It’s like a computer-based NASCAR random name generator.

The reason I used the quote above is that I hope the Pirates don’t pull Austin Meadows’ chain by yo-yoing him between MLB and the minors. Shuttling young players back and forth almost always works out poorly. Jeff Samardzija’s early years with the Chicago Cubs are a prime example.

Over the past few years, Austin Meadows became one of those prospects Fantasy Baseball owners got tired of waiting for. Austin Meadows was a first-round draft pick (ninth overall) of the Pirates in 2013. The Pirates had high first-round picks for several years prior, including Jameson Taillon (2nd overall) in 2010 and Gerrit Cole (first overall) in 2011. The Pirates were doing the tanking/rebuilding thing before the Cubs and Houston Astros made it fashionable.

In 2015, Austin Meadows posted a .310 AVG/77 R/7 HR/55 RBI/21 SB stat line for the season between Single-A and Double-A. His eventual promotion to The Show seemed as guaranteed as box office success did for the movie Ishtar. And if you follow movies, you know how Ishtar turned out. I promise I’ll explain this one if I ever get around to writing movie columns.

In 2016 and 2017, an Austin Meadows DL announcement became as common as announcements for new Star Trek shows and movies during the 1990’s. Hamstring and oblique injuries limited Austin Meadows to only 87 games in 2016 and 81 games in 2017. As you can imagine, this also affected his performance.

If that wasn’t enough, Austin Meadows was also blocked at the MLB level. Between Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, and Andrew McCutchen, there was no spot for him in the Pirates outfield. When Andrew McCutchen was traded to the San Francisco Giants this January, however, it looked like Austin Meadows’ time had arrived. But then the Pirates acquired Corey Dickerson in February. Not what you’d call a vote of confidence for Austin Meadows.

With no path to playing time, Austin Meadows headed back to Triple-A to start the 2018 season. After demonstrating he was healthy and posting a solid .294 AVG/20 R/1 HR/15 RBI/8 SB line in 32 games at Triple-A, Austin Meadows made his MLB debut on May 18 after Starling Marte hit the DL.

Since the promotion, Austin Meadows has put up a .417 AVG/7 R/3 HR/6 RBI/3 SB stat line in his first 10 MLB games. But here’s the important part; he was not demoted when Starling Marte returned from the DL. A team doesn’t keep one of its top prospects at the MLB level if he’s just going to ride the bench.

Austin Meadows can hit (.292 career AVG and .357 career OBP in the minors), and he can run. He just turned 23 years-old this month, so there’s room for power growth. The Pirates also haven’t hesitated to put him near the top of the lineup. The big questions are health and playing time. In Fantasy Baseball, however, it’s all about the skills; and Austin Meadows’ skills are real.

Austin Meadows is currently owned in only 56% of ESPN leagues and 51% of Yahoo leagues. If you need OF help and are cruising the waiver wire, this is a flyer you should strongly consider. Hopefully, the Pirates decide not to pull his chain.

For more waiver wire options, check out the SCFE Waiver Wire column by Josh Morgan.

Hot Topic No. 2: “I’m dropping the hammer.”

Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers

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This testosterone-fueled quote from Cole Trickle about driving fast describes what Jesus Aguilar has done to MLB pitching so far this season. Like Daniel Bryan’s WWE Championship and the rise of the Yes Movement a few years ago, it seems like nobody saw this coming.

Jesus Aguilar was signed by the Cleveland Indians as an amateur free agent in 2007. Although he put up solid numbers in the minors, there never seemed to be a place for him on the Indians’ roster. He made his MLB debut in 2014 but never played more than 19 MLB games in a season prior to 2017.

Despite hitting 30 HRs and accounting for 92 RBI at Triple-A in 2016, Jesus Aguilar was DFA’d by the Indians in January of 2017. The .247 AVG in 2016 might have had something to do with it. He was claimed off waivers by the Brewers on February 2, 2017. This was greeted with indifference by both the MLB and Fantasy Baseball communities.

He finally received semi-regular playing time in 2017, finishing the season with a .265 AVG/40 R/16 HR/52 RBI/0 SB stat line in 279 ABs. Like Brock Lesnar’s WWE work, it was a respectable part-time performance. As with the Indians, however, Jesus Aguilar just seemed to have no path to a starting job.

Although Jesus Aguilar began the 2018 season in a bench role, he got his opportunity when Eric Thames hit the DL with torn thumb ligament on April 25. And like Harrison Ford scoring the part of Indiana Jones when Tom Selleck turned it down (that actually happened), Jesus Aguilar took his opportunity and ran with it.

Through May 29, Jesus Aguilar has posted a .308 AVG/25 R/9 HR/30 RBI stat line in 133 ABs. That’s not bad at all. Of course, it’s a little early to say that Jesus Aguilar has Wally Pipped Eric Thames. If you don’t get that reference, you’re not a true baseball fan.

The power is legitimate, but the AVG is inflated by an unsustainable .356 BABIP. Although the Regression Police should arrive, Jesus Aguilar does have a career .271 AVG and .348 OBP in the minors. There’s swing-and-miss in his game (five seasons of 100-plus Ks in the minors), but he’s currently the number 3 hitter in an explosive Brewers lineup. We’re talking serious counting stat opportunities here.

Jesus Aguilar is currently owned in 59% of ESPN leagues and 69% of Yahoo leagues. If you need CI or UTIL help, Jesus Aguilar merits consideration. And you can borrow from The Big Lebowski and say nobody messes with the Jesus.

There are your Fantasy Baseball 2018 Week 9 Hot Topics. If your teams are struggling, just remember that like the Indianapolis 500, the Fantasy Baseball season is a long race. You can always make a move down the stretch. Just don’t really try to hit the pace car.

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

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