Happ-yness, more or less

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It would be fair to say that Ian Happ in a (relatively) short amount of time has been a frustrating player for fantasy managers to watch. There have been highs like an .842 OPS over his rookie season in 2017, lows like a 2019 campaign that saw him spend the majority of the year in Triple-A, and everything in between.

Most of the 2021 season has been on the low side, but there have been signs of life as of late, and Thursday showed why it’s tough to give up on talents like Happ. The 26-year-old homered twice in a 5-2 win for the Cubs, and with that two-homer night, the former first-round selection now has six roundtrippers on the season, but four of those have come in the last five games.

Obviously, the power is encouraging to see, but even with the outburst over the last week or so, the numbers here are pretty disappointing. In 107 at-bats, Happ is slashing .207/.320/.402, and he’s struck out 40 times in 32 games against just 16 walks, and he’s not contributing steals with just one in that timeframe.

So, the question is, what version of Happ is real? Within reason, anyway, no one is expecting him to have a 129-homer pace the rest of the season. The metrics seem to suggest there’s been bad luck -- and also caution that there’s going to be issues the rest of the year, as well. Coming into the game on Thursday, his hard-hit percentage ranks in the 93rd percentile of all MLB players. His average exit velocity is in the 75th percentile, his rate of “barreling” the baseball in the 65th, and he ranks highly in walks (85th) and chase rate (76th) as well. The negatives are there, too, however, as Happ ranks near the bottom of the league in expected batting average (17th), whiff percentage (5th) and strikeouts (8th).

Happ can certainly help those in on-base percentage leagues or those who can take the hit in average, but this is a very volatile player; one that is going to make fantasy managers smile just as often as they cringe.

DeGrominant in Low-A

Jacob deGrom made a rehab start on Wednesday for Low-A St. Lucie, and saying it went well seems like a bit of an understatement. The right-hander struck out eight over three innings, and didn’t allow a run while throwing 41 pitches. Those numbers are nice, but it’s more about the fact that deGrom looks healthy after missing time with his lat strain. He was reportedly throwing 99-102 mph with his fastball, and 92-94 mph with his slider. That’ll work.

The Mets are going to make sure that deGrom is healthy before activating him off the 10-day injured list, but assuming there are no setbacks and he feels well on Friday, there’s a very good chance that we see the best pitcher in baseball back with the Mets soon.

Starting Pitchers with an EDGE

Domingo German -- 7 IP, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO against Texas.

Dane Dunning -- 6 IP, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO against New York (AL).

This was a heck of a pitcher’s duel. German and Dunning battled zero-for-zero, and the stalemate didn’t end until Dunning left the game and John King gave up a pair of runs in the seventh. German has seen his ERA lower to 3.05, while Dunning -- in his first full year as a starter -- has a respectable 3.74 mark. Both hurlers are worth fantasy consideration, with German a little better bet because he plays for a much better team.

Sandy Alcantara -- 6 IP, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 SO against Philadelphia.

An outstanding start from the Marlins right-hander that saw him allow just three hits, and just one of them was an extra-base hit, a Brad Miller double. The right-hander was much better than his last start where he was a disaster against the Dodgers; allowing eight runs in just 1 2/3 innings. If you take away that start -- and you can’t, I’ve looked into it -- 25-year-old has been pitching well, as this makes five-of-six starts where he’s allowed no more than two runs. Earned run averages are often misleading, but Alcantara’s 3.63 is not indicative of how well he’s pitched for most of the year.

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Hitters with an EDGE

Brandon Crawford -- 3-for-6, HR, 6 RBI

Darin Ruf -- 4-for-5, HR, 2 2B, 4 R, 2 RBI against Cincinnati.

Combos are the theme of this dose. The Giants won 19-4 so we could do the entire lineup, but let’s focus on Crawford and Ruf. Crawford, in particular, has been swinging the bat well as of late; he’s homered 11 times in 2021 now seven of those dingers have come in the month of May. This despite the fact that he missed a few games with injury.

Ruff, on the other hand, has made the most of his limited time with a .944 OPS and six homers in just 72 at-bats. If Brandon Belt ends up going on the injured list with his side injury, he’s someone that fantasy managers should look at, but if not, Ruf is the type of player that DFS players should consider whenever he’s in the lineup. He can hit.

Randy Arozarena -- 4-for-6, HR, 4 RBI, 3 R

Joey Wendle -- 4-for-6, 2 HR, 2B against Baltimore.

One final combo meal. Arozarena continues to see his numbers rise to the level fantasy managers were hoping for, and it’s the third three-hit game in his last five contests. An OPS was down to .723 on May 11 is now up to .829 with seven homers and four steals.

Wendle, on the other hand, just keeps hitting and seems to get lost in the shuffle. With the two-homer game, he’s now gone deep five times, and he’s slashing .309/.354/.537 with a whopping 14 doubles. Those number and eligibility at second, third and shortstop; it makes no sense that Wendle can be added in over a third of Yahoo leagues.

Priority Pickup

Vidal Brujan -- Available in 86 percent of Yahoo fantasy baseball leagues

Yep, I’m recommending a pickup of a player that has absolutely no guarantee of being called up in the next week or even month. That’s how good Brujan potentially is. He had another big game on Thursday; stealing three bases for Triple-A Durham. Wander Franco is the big name in that system -- and for good reason, and I’d recommend him if you haven’t added him to your roster already -- but Brujan is more likely to contribute in the steals category and should be able to hit for some average and power. Is there risk with a pickup like this? You bet, but it comes with a heck of a lot of reward, too. Why not?

Closing Time

Aroldis Chapman continues to dominate. He has yet to allow an earned run, he struck out two, and his ERA is 0.00. Based on research, it’s not actually possible to do better than that. It’s also the 11th save of the season for the southpaw.

The Blue Jays took a 7-5 lead into the ninth inning against Boston and turned to Rafael Dolis to finish the job. It didn’t go so well. Dolis allowed three runs on four hits with a walk while picking up the blown save with J.D. Martinez connecting on the two-run homer. It’s the first blown save of the year for the 33-year-old, but he’s given up five runs over his last three appearances. Not great.

Matt Barnes was great, however, in the same contest, as he struck out three and didn’t allow a hit while procuring his 10th save of the season. It’s a nice bounceback from the blown save he picked up against the Angels on Sunday, and outside of that, the former first-round pick has looked the part as a stopper. Boston doesn’t seem to be going anywhere right now, so there should be plenty of more opportunities for Barnes over these summer months.

Others picking up saves on Thursday: Craig Kimbrel and Hansel Robles.

Editor’s Note: Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news and updates. Plus, it allows you to easily track your favorite players. Get it here!

Friday’s Matchup of the Day

Trevor Bauer (MIA) vs. Alex Wood (SF)

This series sure looks a lot more exciting than it did, say, two months ago. Bauer has been excellent in his first (last?) season with the Dodgers, and fantasy managers can’t be too surprised by that. Wood, on the other hand? Yeah, this is a surprise; he’s 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA and looks like the pitcher who was such an intriguing fantasy hurler five years ago, only better. Should be fun.

American League Quick Hits: Jorge Polanco was removed from the second game of a doubleheader with a sore ankle …Kenta Maeda (groin) will start on Saturday against the Indians ... Tyler Duffey has agreed to serve a two-game suspension starting on Thursday. Duffey was suspended three games for throwing behind Yermin Mercedes on Tuesday, and Rocco Baldelli also served a one-game suspension … Mariners designated INF/OF Jose Marmolejos and RHP Brady Lail for assignment … Anthony Santander (ankle) will be activated off the injured list on Friday … Derek Holland (shoulder) is starting a rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo on Thursday … Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told reporters that there is still no timetable for George Springer (quad) to return … Byron Buxton (hip) is still limited to "light" rehab activities, per Twins manager Rocco Baldelli … Jose Urquidy threw a bullpen session on Thursday.

National League Quick Hits: Felipe Vazquez was found guilty of 15 counts on Thursday involving charges faced last summer … Cody Bellinger (calf) will be in the lineup for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday … Stephen Strasburg (shoulder) will start for the Nationals on Friday … Vince Velasquez (finger) told reporters on Thursday that he expects to be able to make his next scheduled start. Velasquez was scratched from Thursday's start against the Marlins with a numb right index finger … Diamondbacks purchased the contract of OF Josh Reddick from Triple-A Reno … Braves outrighted C Jeff Mathis to Triple-A Gwinnett … The Phillies are hoping J.T. Realmuto (wrist) can play on Friday against the Red Sox. Realmuto was out of the lineup again on Thursday in a loss to the Marlins … Diamondbacks signed RHP Noe Ramirez to a minor league contract … Cubs placed OF Jason Heyward on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain.