Cubs

FanDuel Friday: Riding the (very) hot hand in Clay Buchholz

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FanDuel Friday: Riding the (very) hot hand in Clay Buchholz

With plenty of stellar pitching and a host of young talent blossoming before the trade deadline, there are plenty of options to consider during tonight's FanDuel Friday.

Let's dive right in to the picks so we can make you some dough. 

John "The Professor" Paschall

How can I say no to this guy?

He's been rock solid over his last seven starts, going 5-0 with a 1.99 ERA and 42 strikeouts. Pitching at home against the Yankees will surely provide any kind of extra motivation he may need to deliver another gem. His price also makes the rest of my lineup more fun to create.

I got a youth movement going on in the middle of my lineup with Travis, Sano and Correa. All three of those guys have already proved they belong. Sano will shake off a rough day yesterday against David Price and rebound against a struggling Verlander. Travis and other Blue Jays should return to their old powerful selves with Duffy on the mound in Kansas City.

Jones is still cheap enough that he's got to be in my lineup. He's too big of a star to leave off your lineup at that price tag. Ramirez has had much better power numbers against right-handers this year compared to lefties. Dyson always adds the element of stolen bases and with his new spot in the starting lineup, it's hard not to like his potential low cost-high reward.

Fielder has absolutely mashed right-handers this year (.393/.456/.565, 7 HR, 35 RBI) so his matchup against Kennedy in Texas has me salivating.

Mark Strotman

It took a lot for me to pass on Madison Bumgarner pitching tonight at home against the hapless Phillies. But that's how much I like Syndergaard. In his last two starts he's throwing 14 innings and allowed just two earned runs, including a six-inning, one-run performance while battling Clayton Kershaw at Chavez Ravine. That gives me hope he can continue to pitch at a high level in a difficult matchup against the Diamondbacks, who have clawed back to .500 in winning seven of their last 10 games. But that's also why I'm getting Syndergaard on the cheap end, and I really like the value here. It's the first time Arizona will have seen the talented rookie.

It's maybe not the greatest strategy, but I'm getting some solid veterans going through some struggles in Jonathan Lucroy and Robinson Cano who I think will break out sooner than later. Hopefully it's tonight.

Joc Pederson has gone nine games without a homer *gasp!* and the best remedy for a homerless streak is to face the Milwaukee Brewers, who have allowed the second most homers in the league (98). Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson has served up 13 of those, making Pederson an awesome play tonight.

Joey Votto has six hits and a homer in his last three games, and I like his matchup tonight in Miami. Mookie Betts and Brett Gardner round out my always-fast outfield, while I ride the hot Matt Carpenter (2-for-4, 2 RBIs last night) against the Pirates.

Clay Buchholz has been on fire lately, with four straight quality starts, lasting at least 7 innings in each of those, allowing just 3 ER in that span. He's going up against the Yankees' aging offense, but I'll take my chances with the way Clay's been pitching.

As for hitting, I'm kinda just hoping Lucroy will break out of his disappointing season for at least one good game and Fielder playing at home vs. Ian Kennedy and his 4.84 ERA was too good to pass up. Danny Salazar has been struggling lately, so I like Zobrist and Lawrie as nice value plays vs. Salazar tonight. Bogaerts isn't flashy, but he's put up positive FanDuel points for about two weeks straight now and at a $3,000 price tag. Yelich has been hot as well, with an OPS north of .900 the last month-plus.

I also really wanted newly-minted AL All-Star Brett Gardner in my lineup (yes, even against my pitcher) and at a $4,200 price tag, I only had $3,200 left, and Brantley was the guy I felt most confident in among those OFers in that price range.

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Who was Theo Epstein’s first draft pick with the Cubs?

The answer to that trivia question will always and forever be Albert Almora Jr. picked sixth overall in the 2012 amateur draft.

In some ways, the young outfielder from Florida became the forgotten man in the stable of can’t-miss prospects that Epstein and top lieutenants Jed Hoyer and Jason MacLeod amassed since their arrival over six years ago. While players such as Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ zoomed through the minor leagues on their way to the majors, Almora took a different path – one that included seven different stops over parts of five developmental seasons before he broke into the big leagues during the 2016 season.

But Almora’s road to the majors began years before he was selected by the Cubs, when he began playing for Team USA as a 13-year-old. Over the next several years, Almora played for the Red, White & Blue seven times, his final appearance coming in 2015. The seven appearances are the most in the history of USA Baseball, and Almora recognizes the impact his time with the national squad had on his playing career.

“[It was] one of the best experiences of my life," he said. "Every year I had something special to play with, unbelievable guys, went to crazy places, and out of those six years, five of them came with a gold medal so that was pretty special as well. Also, that helped me in my baseball life, how to experience things and learn from those type of experiences.

“I’m a Cubbie and that’s what’s on my chest right now, but Team USA will always have a special place in my heart.”

While Almora carries those national team experiences with him every day, his main focus coming into the 2018 season is becoming a consistent difference-maker. Almora made only 65 starts during the 2017 campaign, and 63 percent of his at-bats last year came against left-handed pitching, against which he hit a robust .342. That led to a platoon role in a crowded outfield, with Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Jay, Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist all taking turns on the merry-go-round. But with the departure of Jay, Almora believes his time is near.

“I have the most confidence in myself that I can play every day, but I try not to think about that kind of stuff because it’s out of my control," Almora said. "All I control is like last year what I did; whenever I was given an opportunity, I tried to do my best and help the team win.”

Almora’s ultimate role on the 2018 Cubs remains to be seen, but there’s no question that Theo’s first Cubs pick will earn whatever role he ends up with, and the foundation of Almora’s journey to Clark and Addison was laid many summers ago during his time with Team USA.

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

News broke to Willson Contreras that the league will be limiting mound visits this upcoming season, and the Cubs catcher —notorious for his frequent visits to the rubber — is not having it.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If you have to go again and pay the price for my team, I will," he said.

The new rules rolled out Tuesday will limit six visits —any time a manager, coach or player visits the mound — per nine innings. But, communication between a player and a pitcher that does not require them moving from their position does not count as a visit.When a team is out of visits, it's the umpire's discretion to allow an extra trip to the mound.

But despite the new rules, Contreras is willing to do what's best for the team.

“There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? They cannot say anything about that. If you’re going to fine me about the [seventh] mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”