FanDuel Friday: Bryce Harper too hot to keep out of lineup?


FanDuel Friday: Bryce Harper too hot to keep out of lineup?

We spend a lot of time in daily fantasy sports focusing on which starting pitcher you should build your lineup around. And rightfully so. Pitchers usually end up getting the most points for you in your lineup while hitters struggle to even provide positive points. 

But there's one hitter that everyone has on their minds lately: Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper. 

Cubs fans got a glimpse of his incredible talent this past week as he hit multiple home runs in the Cubs' series against the Nationals. The 22-year old (yes, he's only 22) has hit 13 home runs this month (a franchise record) and that's over a span of just 19 games. He's also already drawn 43 walks this season and his hitting .331, showing he's more than just a power hitter. He's now found himself in an elite group of sluggers that are worth a start no matter who the opposing pitcher is. 

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

With all his success, however, his price tag has shot up to a steep $6,000. Is he worth that much money for a hitter?

Check out CSN Fantasy's lineups for tonight's slate of games to get you ready to construct your FanDuel lineup. 

John "The Professor" Paschall

Yes, Harper is worth the price tag. He's posted 2.5 points or more in eight of the past 10 games and has hit a home run in consecutive games. Ride the hot hand. 

A few weeks ago I trusted Rodon in my FanDuel lineup and the return wasn't spectacular. But here's why I'm optimistic: the Astros have struck out the second most times this season as a team (only behind the Cubs) and have the second worst team batting average (.234), which is pretty odd for the team with the most wins in baseball. But Rodon's swing-and-miss stuff could be a nice matchup with the Astros' lineup tonight. 

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The key to my lineup is Ramirez. He's coming in at a ridiculously cheap price tag ($3,000). I know he's been battling some injuries but last night he showed off some power, recording a double and a home run. More importantly, he was pulling the ball again, hopefully a sign that his strength has returned. 

Tomas and Kang were big signings by their respective teams this offseason and both got off to slow starts. But each guy has now found his stroke and are must starts because of their cheap price tags. 

Belt has quietly had himself a nice season for the Giants and has 10 hits in his last eight games. Finally returning from injury, Zobrist seems to have gotten his feet underneath him, recording four hits in his first three games back.

Swihart is my biggest risk this week but he's on a five-game hitting streak and facing Yovanni Gallardo, who hasn't been exactly lights out.

Michael Smith

The matchup I’m targeting today is the Red Sox at Rangers game, featuring an over/under of 9, the largest number on the board tonight.  It’s going to be a humid night in Arlington, so I went with some flyball hitters who could go deep.  Yovani Gallardo is a righty who has reverse splits, meaning he struggles with right handed bats more than lefties, so I like every right hander in Boston’s lineup tonight.  The Rangers offense gets to face Steven Wright making his fifth career start tonight, so all the bats near the top of the Rangers order are in play.

James Shields is really enjoying his move to the National League, with 82 strikeouts in 62 innings. There are 3 ways for pitchers to help you in daily fantasy (K’s, IP, and Wins), and Shields can possibly check all 3 boxes today. The Pirates offense has been coming around lately, scoring the second most runs over the past week, but Petco Park is a place good offenses can disappear. Other matchups I like are Oakland A’s hitters against Chris Capuano who has allowed 7 runs to score over his 7+ innings on the season. Another matchup I like are the Minnesota Twins hitters against Mark Buehrle, although the weather in Minnesota could cause some rain delays. The surprising Twins have killed left handed pitching this year, hitting .282 vs. lefties but only .243 vs righties.

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Ricky Gutiérrez played in the Majors from 1993-2004. He played shortstop for the Cubs from 2000-01 and later signed with them again in June 2004. 

However, Gutiérrez never got back to the Majors with the Cubs, who sent him to the Red Sox the following month. His final Major League game was with the Red Sox on Oct. 3, 2004, the final game of the 2004 regular season; he didn’t play in the 2004 postseason. Gutiérrez was subsequently signed and released by a few other teams, including the White Sox in 2005.

Gutiérrez holds the distinction of being the first Cubs player to hit a regular season grand slam against the White Sox (July 12, 2001). In his two seasons with the Cubs, he tied for the Major League lead in sacrifice bunts both years (16 in 2000, 17 in 2001) which was odd since he had a grand total of 18 sacrifice bunts in his 847 career games NOT in a Cubs uniform. He also had uncharacteristic power with the Cubs:  21 home runs for Chicago in 272 games, 17 home runs with everyone else (847 games).

What Cubs fans probably remember most is what Gutiérrez did against them. On May 6, 1998 he had the lone hit (many dispute it should have been ruled an error) for the Astros off Kerry Wood in Wood’s 20-strikeout masterpiece at Wrigley Field (Gutiérrez was responsible for two of the strikeouts). 

Later that season, on June 26, the number 20 and Gutiérrez were again connected when he had a 20-pitch battle against Bartolo Colón, which ended in a strikeout. It remained the last plate appearance in the Majors of at least 20 pitches until Brandon Belt flew out on the 21st pitch of an at-bat against the Angels' Jaime Barria on April 22, 2018.

Gutiérrez’s nephew, James Jones, played 14 seasons in the NBA for the Pacers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Heat and Cavaliers.

2019 encore for Jesse Chavez?


2019 encore for Jesse Chavez?

On July 15, Brandon Morrow recorded his 22nd save of the season with a scoreless inning in San Diego. It wound up being the last time he pitched in a game for the Cubs in 2018. 

Four days later, during the All-Star break, the Cubs made a move to bolster their bullpen, acquiring Jesse Chavez from the Rangers in exchange for minor league hurler Tyler Thomas. It wasn’t even the biggest trade they’d make with the Rangers that month – a little over a week later they dealt for Cole Hamels. 

Despite pitching nearly half the innings, Chavez was almost as valuable as Hamels.

2018 with Cubs IP fWAR
Jesse Chavez 39.0 1.1
Cole Hamels 76.1 1.5

Chavez made his Cubs debut on July 21; from July 21 through the end of the season, 187 pitchers tossed at least 30 innings. 185 of them had a higher ERA than Chavez, while 184 of them allowed more baserunners per 9 innings.

Best ERA, July 21-end of season

(minimum 30 innings) IP ERA
Blake Treinen 32.1 0.56
Jesse Chavez 39.0 1.15
Blake Snell 61.2 1.17
Trevor Bauer 35.0 1.29
Trevor Williams 71.2 1.38
Robert Stock 36.0 1.50

Fewest baserunners per 9 innings, July 32-end of season

(minimum 30 innings) IP BR/9 IP
Blake Treinen 32.1 5.85
Blake Snell 61.2 7.15
Jesse Chavez 39.0 7.15
Jacob deGrom 93.2 7.49
Scott Oberg 30.2 7.63
Josh Hader 33.1 7.83

But how did Chavez transform into one of Joe Maddon’s best bullpen arms down the stretch?  According to Chavez, his own transformation started on Mother’s Day.

Chavez entered a game in Houston with a 5.48 ERA in a dozen appearances, but pitched three innings with no hits, no walks and four strikeouts. From that point through the end of the season, he posted a 1.70 ERA and 0.892 WHIP. 

Chavez points to a change in arm slot which resulted in better consistency and a slight jump in velocity. A glance at his release point charts show that consistency, and he added roughly one mile an hour to his fastball.

"It's kept me more consistent in the zone," Chavez said. "Things have been sharper, velocity has been a lot sharper. I was huffing and puffing trying to get a 92 (mph fastball) out there and it wasn't coming.

"Next thing you know, I dropped it and it's right there, and I'm like, 'something's wrong here.' But I just took it and ran with it."

Jesse Chavez 2018 four-seam fastball velocity

  Average Max
Prior to May 13 92.6 mph 94.6 mph
May 13 on 93.6 mph 95.7 mph

Can Chavez be valuable in 2019?  The 35-year old reliever posted the best ERA (2.55), WHIP (1.059) and walk rate (4.5% - nearly two percent better than his previous best) in 2018, and he continued to get better as the season went on. 

He’s a former starter who can pitch multiple innings if needed, and that’s a valuable thing - especially for a manager like Joe Maddon, who uses his pitchers in a variety of ways. It’s unlikely he’ll have a second consecutive career year.

But he’ll likely be well worth the price tag; he only made $1 million in 2018, and even with a slight raise he should be very affordable. There’s definitely room in Maddon’s bullpen for a pitcher like Chavez.