Cubs

FanDuel Friday: Picking the right ace for your lineup

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FanDuel Friday: Picking the right ace for your lineup

The weather has finally warmed up in Chicago after a long and dreary winter that seemed to never want to go away. And with the NBA regular season officially over, it's time to turn our attention to a new sport in daily fantasy leagues: baseball. 

Baseball is a different animal than some of the other sports on FanDuel, simply because it's a lot harder to score a lot of points. Avoiding a negative score for a player is, in some ways, a victory. Picking your pitcher is the most vital selection of your entire lineup because that's where a majority of your points will come from. 

Luckily for fantasy players this week, there are a handful of aces to chose from in tonight's slate of games (Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw and Johnny Cueto to name a few). 

Check out our first set of lineups for the baseball season down below:

John "The Professor" Paschall

I almost went Scherzer here because he will simply dominate the Phillies tonight but I went a little cheaper with Kluber, who should also have a solid chance of getting a win against a weak Twins lineup. Ramos has been hot lately, getting a hit in six of his last seven games and his matchup with O'Sullivan certainly is enticing. Davis, Segura and Lagares have all been on fire lately at the plate and are good, cheap options to fill out your lineup. It also helps that those sluggers aren't facing ace caliber starters tonight.

Betts and Odor are guys who can stuff the stat sheet, whether it's with hits, runs or stolen bases, these guys have the potential to explode on any given night.

Sandoval is a bit of a risky pick since he's been very up-and-down so far with the Red Sox, but with Jimenez on the mound for the O's, Sandoval should hopefully get back into rhythm when he's forced to go back to hitting from his better (left) side. 

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Mark Strotman


It's been a rough start for the Brewers in 2015, but that hasn't applied to starter Jimmy Nelson. I look for Nelson to keep that going, while Lucroy has to break out of his early-season slump at some point. Jean Segura arguably has been the best fantasy Brewer not named Adam Lind, and his breakout campaign is off to a great start.

I'm definitely going with the big names in Prince Fielder and Dustin Pedroia, but for a combined $7,000 it's too big a steal. Fielder's batting .400 and quietly riding a four-game hit streak; it'd be great if he could pick up that elusive first homer.

I LOVE the outfielders I'm using tonight. Ellsbury is batting just .286 but has seven-game hit streak. I expect the home runs and RBIs to start pouring in soon. Heyward has slowed a bit and has a tough matchup against Johnny Cueto, but he's relatively cheap for an outfielder with pop. And Lorenzo Cain is just the man. He's like my Russell Westbrook of fantasy baseball. Find a way to get him in your lineup.

 

Cubs still owning second place in the NL All-Star vote standings

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USA TODAY

Cubs still owning second place in the NL All-Star vote standings

One Cubs player is within shouting distance of starting at the 2018 MLB All-Star game. But this time around, as compared to last week, the vote deficit is a bit larger.

MLB updated its second round of All-Star ballots for the National League. Catcher Willson Contreras trails Giants catcher Buster Posey by 90,000 votes. The margin was only 22,000 votes at this time last week.

And for other Cubs players such as Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and others, the margin is a little more substantial.

Rizzo is behind Braves first basemen Freddie Freeman by nearly 870,000 votes. Baez trails Braves second basemen Ozzie Albies by 148,000 votes.

Bryant trails Rockies third basemen Nolan Arenado by 447,000 votes. At shortstop, Addison Russell is in third place, trailing the Dansby Swanson of the Braves and Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford.

In the outfield, Jason Heyward moved up to the seventh spot with 447,359 votes, dropping Kyle Schwarber to eighth with 442,471 votes, and Ben Zobrist ranks ninth with 434,943 votes.

There will be another All-Star ballot update for the NL next Monday, and voting ends on July 5 at 11 p.m. Central.

 

Addison Russell may be polarizing, but he's also one of the Cubs' most important players

Addison Russell may be polarizing, but he's also one of the Cubs' most important players

ST. LOUIS — Addison Russell is the most polarizing player on the 2018 Cubs.

Now that Jason Heyward has found his groove again at the plate, Ian Happ isn't striking out every other at-bat and Yu Darvish has spent the last month on the disabled list, it's Russell's cross to bear.

Mind you, Russell is still 24 and far from a finished product as a Major League Baseball player.

But he's had such an up-and-down run with the Cubs over the last year and a half, ever since the 2016 World Series. That includes an accusation of domestic violence last spring, though Russell denited it and MLB's investigation into the matter ended when his ex-wife declined to participate with the league.

This is the guy who collected 4 hits in the weekend series in St. Louis, including a pair of doubles, a homer and 2 walks. He's also hitting .333 with a .395 on-base percentage and .882 OPS in June.

But then again, this is also the same guy who had throwing issues in the sixth and eighth innings Sunday night (including not throwing to third base for the force out in the sixth inning) and struck out looking with runners on second and third and only one out Saturday night.

Russell currently boasts career best marks in walk rate, strikeout rate, batting average, on-base percentage, line drive rate and opposite field hit percentage. He's also sporting a 104 wRC+ (which measures runs created per plate appearance and takes into account league and park factors, with 100 being average), which is the best mark of his career.

All told, Russell is in the midst of his best offensive season. 

Then again, he still only has a .744 OPS and is on pace for just 7 homers and 38 RBI, down numbers for a guy who hit 21 bombs with 95 RBI as a 22-year-old in 2016.

Over the weekend in St. Louis, Russell said he feels good at the plate, both mentally and physically. He liked where his head was at and can feel the progression he's made as a hitter since last season.

With or without Javy Baez (who just took a 90 mph fastball off the elbow in Sunday night's game), Russell is one of the Cubs' most important players.

He's so integral to what the Cubs do on defense and currently ranks as the second-best defender in baseball with 13 Defensive Runs Saved, behind only Oakland's Matt Chapman.

Russell also has the power to completely change the landscape of a Cubs lineup that is still searching for consistency on a daily basis.

Right now, he's doing exactly what the Cubs want him to do at the plate: Walking more, striking out less and using the whole field.

"When he came in after that line drive down the right-field line [Friday], I gave him a high five twice," Joe Maddon said. "That's the whole thing with these young hitters that we have. As they learn the opposite field on a consistent basis, they'll be able to sustain high numbers. They'll also be able to sustain high walk rates.

"When you're doing that, you're giving yourself more time to make a decision. Ball inside that you're pulling, you have a longer swing to get to with less time to make up your mind. Ball away that you're gonna go the other way with, you have a shorter swing to get to it with more time to make a decision. 

"It's all part of the equation. As our guys learn the value of the middle and opposite field from a hitter's perspective, their numbers are going to continue to increase."

As it stands right now, Russell is a Gold Glove caliber shortstop with a .277 batting average and .351 on-base percentage. That's a pretty solid player, even with the low power.

With the way the Cubs' roster is currently constructed, Russell will play a huge part in whether or not the Cubs can win their second World Series in a three-year span.

But he will also have to continue to maneuver through the mental hurdle of seeing his name thrown about as part of trade rumors this summer (and possibly beyond). And he'll have to stay mentally checked in during every at-bat or play in the field.

Russell's main takeaway roughly 40 percent of the way through the 2018 campaign?

"That it's a long season," he said. "We had a really good run in 2015, '16 and '17 as well, but this year, I'm really taking my time.

"Patience is the real thing in the clubhouse — on the road, at home, doing my routine, knowing that it's all gonna work out over time."