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Fantasy baseball takeaways: Ian Happ has awakened in Chicago

·4 min read
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Has the Ian Happ breakout finally arrived?

There's been a respectable level of hype following Ian Happ ever since he was selected in the first round of the 2015 Amateur Draft.

Considered a top prospect by many pundits with explosive speed and power, Happ rose quickly through the Cubs system and got promoted to the Majors in 2017.

Since then, however, his story has been mired in minor flashes of greatness, but with mostly just acceptable production.

Happ was drafted in the 14th round of Yahoo leagues this season and immediately found himself in the coldest of slumps before landing on the IL with bruised ribs.

Kudos to you if you held on to him (I would know — I almost cut bait via a trade in the 16-team Yahoo Friends & Family League). 

Happ was activated off the injured list on May 15 and has been absolutely tearing the cover off the ball ever since. He's gone 8-for-23 with FOUR home runs since his return, including two shots on Thursday. Let's hope he starts ramping up those stolen base opportunities, too; he has just one on the year.

It's great to see Happ return in this hot fashion, but now, fantasy managers are faced with an interesting dilemma: Do they stick with the former top prospect, hoping that he'll finally reach his potential at age-26, or do they look to maximize on a return via a possible trade?

While he clearly has power with some speed, Happ has struggled with strikeouts throughout his major-league career. That has continued into 2021, with a 31.7 percent K-rate. That said, he is walking 12.7% of the time, helping his OBP stay afloat, and he has been unlucky this season (his BABIP has been just .262, compared to a career .321 mark).

Chicago Cubs' Ian Happ
Is Ian Happ about to go off? (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

My advice: Hold onto Happ if you've got him. He probably won't hit for a high average at his ceiling, but there's 20-10, maybe even 25-15 potential with him as part of a top-heavy Cubs lineup. And let's be honest: a .240-.245 average (which is probably the highest he'll touch) isn't a deal-breaker this season, not when hitters are being made to look silly night in and night out and averages are down league-wide.

Happ is currently 60% rostered in Yahoo leagues, and the number is climbing. He's worth checking on to see if he's somehow still available.

Is it too late to join the party in San Francisco?

While the Giants have surprised in the early going, their 19-4 drubbing of the Reds on Thursday opened everyone's eyes. This is a lineup filled with an assortment of aging stars, veteran utilitymen, and journeymen hitters who have ridden quite a few benches in their day. Yet, the Giants rank second in home runs, eighth in RBIs, third in walks, and eighth in runs in MLB so far.

And those walks have been a key catalyst to their offensive success; only three hitters in their usual starting eight have an OBP under .320.

You're going to want parts of this team on your fantasy lineup as long as they're playing like this, but is it too late to get in on the fun?

Yes, you can't have the resurgent Buster Posey, or any of the elite pitching trio of Kevin Gausman, Anthony Desclafani, and Alex Wood. Even submariner Tyler Rogers, who has been given more closing opportunities of late, is up to 59% rostered (but make sure to go check your waiver wire for him just the same).

Brandon Belt, however, is still available in nearly 70% of leagues. He's on the shelf right now, but has been steadily working towards a return and could come back this weekend. Belt has been a revelation thus far, hitting eight home runs with 21 RBIs. The other Brandon, Crawford, who has been scorching, is also at 59% rostered but worth a waiver check-in.

Evan Longoria (19% rostered) went 3-for-5 with a home run in Thursday's rout, after being caught in a cold spell. Yet, he's still hitting .248/.347/.432 with five homers on the season — those are playable numbers in today's game.

Even veteran Johnny Cueto (28%) still has some stuff left in the tank. He's been throwing with increased velocity this season and has a FIP of 2.89. He's a quality streamer in shallow leagues and worth a roster spot in deeper ones.

It's not an even-number year, but the Giants are Giant-ing. Let's join the fun if we can.