Cubs

FanDuel Friday: Is Matt Harvey worth hefty price tag?

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FanDuel Friday: Is Matt Harvey worth hefty price tag?

Look, FanDuel baseball is hard. It's not like every other sport, where you have a decent idea of who to play and what to expect on a daily basis.

Baseball is so up and down. You could take salary out of the equation and just pack a roster with the very best players at every position playing that day and still very easily lose. Mike Trout could go 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. Jose Altuve could have an 0-fer and maybe Giancarlo Stanton only manages a single in four plate appearances. Clayton Kershaw could have a poor game against the worst team in the league (that's already happened this week). If you pack a lineup with the best players available in basketball or football, you pretty much know what you're gonna get most of the time.

So FanDuel starts with pitching. Don't try to save money on starters; just pick the guy you think will have the best day and fill out your roster from there.

Friday night, that means springing for Matt Harvey.

John "The Professor" Paschall

The Phillies are hitting .227 as a team this year and Harvey as won all of his starts this year. Remember, pitchers get four points for wins and Harvey is also a strikeout machine. He's a great option tonight and well worth the big price tag. 

The matchup of the left-handed slugger Lind against righty Jason Hammel is too enticing to pass up. Segura is a little bit of a gamble considering his struggles against right-handed pitching but Hammel isn't exactly an ace. 

Betts has brought some pop to the plate lately and he's always a threat to pick up steals as well. Sandoval against a right-hander is always a good play. He's a must-avoid when forced to hit from the right side. 

Blanks, Forsythe and Grandal have been on fire lately (an understatement for Grandal considering his monster day on Thursday) and none of those hitters face difficult starters. 

Ethier has taken advantage of Carl Crawford's injury and has performed very well. A trip to Coors Field and a matchup against a right-hander shouldn't hurt as well tonight.

Mark Strotman

Taijuan Walker has been nothing short of horrendous this season, posing an 8.74 ERA in five starts. In his first start of the year, he got shelled by the A's, who he faces on Friday night. So, naturally I'm going with Walker tonight. The price tag is right and he was better in his last home start, allowing one run over five innings in a no-decision against the Astros. Oakland is scuffling having lost six of their last nine, and while the Mariners haven't been much better I think tonight could be a turning point for the 22-year-old's season.

I put together the fastest outfield I could, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say they steal a combined five bases. Betts has come to a screeching halt after a red-hot April, but he does have a five-game hit streak going, including extra-base hits in four of them. With the Cubs pitching having just played 16-inch softball with the Cardinals hitters I can't get a streaking Jean Segura and always reliable Adam Lind in the lineup fast enough. Also, Kris Bryant is in the lineup because he has to hit his first home run at some point, and though Jimmy Nelson has only allowed one round-tripper I get the sense Bryant's first long ball will come this weekend.

Dee Gordon earns my weekly "Russell Westbrook Award" where a player just needs to be in your lineup, no questions asked. He's riding an 11-game win streak, with multiple hits in EIGHT of them. EIGHT. Don't over-think it.

Tony Andracki

To answer the question in the headline: Yes, Harvey is worth the hefty price tag. Pitching is so vital to the success of FanDuel lineups that you can't skimp there, even if it means taking the second-most expensive pitcher out there. Harvey is a stud and going up against one of the league's worst lineups in Philadelphia.

With Harvey in the fold, I had to look for plenty of bargains elswhere. A collection of Chicago players - Montero, Russell, Garcia - are all swinging the bat well of late and I think it's a good bet that continues Friday night. I also targeted some other guys who are riding hot streaks: Belt has doubled in five straight games - earning 20.75 FanDuel points in that span - and Hechavarria has 10 hits in his last eight games. Maybin is playing everyday in Atlanta right now, hitting homers and stealing bags.

Bryant and McCutchen haven't been Fantasy or FanDuel studs like they were expected to be - with only 2 homers between them - but I had some salary to spend and I think it's a good gamble. Bryant's first MLB homer is coming soon and even if it doesn't happen today, I'll take his walks and runs. McCutchen just picked up three hits, a double, an RBI, two runs, a walk and a stolen base Thursday, showing signs of breaking out of his month-long slump.

Podcast: Albert Almora Jr. dishes on his role and the Cubs’ unsung hero that keeps things loose behind the scenes

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Albert Almora Jr. dishes on his role and the Cubs’ unsung hero that keeps things loose behind the scenes

Albert Almora Jr. joins Kelly Crull on the Cubs Talk Podcast to weigh in on a variety of topics, including his budding bromance with rumored Cubs target Manny Machado, his expanded role and how he spends his time off away from the ballpark.

Plus, Almora has a surprise pick for the organization’s unsung hero, stating the Cubs would’ve never won the World Series without this guy.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here:

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

There's a legit case to be made that Ian Happ has been the Cubs' second-best hitter in 2018.

Yes, really.

Happ ranks second on the Cubs in OPS (.895), behind only Kris Bryant (.995) among regulars, though a recent hot streak has buoyed that overall bottom line for Happ.

Still, it's been a pretty incredible hot streak and it's propelled Happ back to where he began the season — at the top of the Cubs order. 

Happ has walked 10 times in the last 6 games and hammered out 3 homers in that span, including one on top of the Schwarboard in right field as a pinch-hitter Tuesday night.

Even more jaw-dropping: He's only struck out 5 times in the last 9 games after a dreadful start to the season in that regard.

"It was just a matter of time until things clicked a little bit," Happ said. "That's why we play 162 games and it's a game of adjustments. At the end of the day, it all evens out.

"Look at the back of Tony [Rizzo's] baseball card — it's the same thing every single year. That's how this thing goes. You're gonna have your ups and your downs and I'm just trying to be as consistent as I can. If I can level it out a little bit and be more consistent over a period of time, that'll be better for our team."

So yes, Happ is on the upswing right now and he'll inevitably have more slumps where he strikes out too much and looks lost at the plate.

Such is life for a 23-year-old who is still a week away from his 162nd career MLB game.

The league had adjusted to Happ and he had to adjust back, which he'd been working hard doing behind the scenes.

"I just try to get him to primarily slow things down," Joe Maddon said. "Try to get him back into left-center. And I did not want to heap a whole lot of at-bats on him. When you're not going good, if you heap too many at-bats on somebody, all of a sudden, that's really hard to dig out of that hole.

"So a lot of conversations — a lot of conversations — but nothing complicated. I like to go the simple side of things. I wanted him to try not to lift the ball intentionally, really organize his strike zone."

Maddon believes Happ had lost sight of his strike zone organization, chasing too many pitches out of the zone — particularly the high fastball.

Now, the Cubs manager sees Happ using his hands more and less of his arms in his swing, working a more precise, compact path to the ball.

The Happ experiment at leadoff was a disaster to begin the year — .186 AVG, .573 OPS and 22 strikeouts in 10 starts there — but all the same tools and rationale exist for why Maddon likes the switch-hitting utiliy player in that spot.

And that's why Happ was leading off Wednesday with both Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. getting the night off.

"We're gonna find out [if he can stick at leadoff]," Maddon said. "I just thought he's looked better. He's coming off a nice streak on the road trip. [Tuesday night], pinch-hitting. I know the home run's great and of course that's nice.

"But how he got to the pitch that he hit out, to me, was the important thing. Got the two strikes, took the two borderline pitches and then all of a sudden, [the pitcher] came in with a little bit more and he didn't miss it.

"That's the big thing about hitting well, too — when you see your pitch, you don't either take it or foul it off. You don't miss it. He didn't miss it."