Closing Time: Ian Happ gives Cubs tough choice with hot start

Opportunity with the Cubs has knocked for Ian Happ, and he has answered in dramatic fashion. (Getty)

There’s a saying that you can’t keep a good man down. We’ll soon find out if the Cubs subscribe to this notion. The defending World Series champs plucked their latest prized prospect, Ian Happ, from the farm to make his MLB debut on Saturday. He promptly homered off St. Louis ace Carlos Martinez in that first contest, collected two more hits against St. Louis on Sunday and, on Tuesday against Cincy, he went yard for the second time in three games. He’s hitting .400 with 4 RBI and 3 Runs through his first 10 at-bats, which is par for the course when you look at how he’d been treating  Triple-A pitching before his call-up – .615 Slugging%, 9 HR in 26 games for Iowa.

So what’s the problem, you say? Well, Happ was only supposed to be up with the Cubs for a quick cup of coffee before heading back down to the farm once a few players returned to full health – namely, Jason Heyward (DL – finger), but also John Jay (back spasms), Kris Bryant (illness) and Ben Zobrist (stiff back).

Heyward’s return is expected sometime this week, so something will have to give soon. But these things have a way of working themselves out. You only have to look at the Cody Bellinger situation with the Dodgers a few weeks ago. Los Angeles was adamant that Bellinger would only be up for a short while. And then Bellinger continued to crush at the big league level in the manner he was at Triple A, and suddenly Adrian Gonzalez is making his first trip to the DL and Bellinger’s stay is extended.

Like Bellinger, it helps that Happ has some position versatility, being able to handle the outfield along with second base. That will give him a better chance to stick around even after everyone else is healthy. Whether it will help him continue to get regular playing time is a different story. But I’ll bet on talent every time, especially if that talent is hitting on all cylinders. Like I said, these things have a way of working out. And it’s hard to keep a good man down. Happ’s available in roughly three-quarters of Yahoo leagues. Manager Joe Maddon already has him written into Wednesday’s lineup. I’d get in on that action, and cross my fingers that there’ll be plenty more action to come.

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* Who would close the next time the Mariners had a save opportunity was ripe fodder on Seattle sports talk radio all day Tuesday. The discussion was prompted by the four walks Edwin Diaz served up on Monday night before being pulled in favor of Tony Zych, who managed to shut the door on the A’s to preserve the win. We didn’t have to wait long to get our answer, as former closer Steve Cishek, recently returned from rehab for hip surgery, got the call in the ninth with a one-run lead on Tuesday night and proceeded to allow three earned runs in a third of an inning to take a blown save and the loss.

M’s manager Scott Servais says the team will go to a closer-by-committee approach for the time being, but you can bet that Diaz is still the late-inning arm to own for the long haul. If you own him, I wouldn’t be cutting him loose in anything close to a standard mixer set-up or deeper. But in the short term, I’d be very interested in the last man in the Baseball Encyclopedia, Mr. Zych. Health has been elusive in his short career, but when he’s right – and he’s looking pretty good since returning from a biceps injury that kept him out the start of the season – he offers up a mid-90s fastball and a filthy slider. That quality two-pitch arsenal can definitely get the job done for an inning.

* Eduardo Rodriguez (64% owned) was one of 10 scheduled Tuesday starters to enter the day with an ERA under 3.00. He would finish the day with an ERA above 3.00 (just barely), but he also picked up a victory (at St. Louis) to go with his fifth straight quality start (6 IP, 3 ER, 5 K). Rodriguez hasn’t ever been able to build much momentum in his career because of health, but he’s always had impressive stuff. Still plenty available in Yahoo leagues, I think he’s a starter that deserves to graduate from preferred streamer status to at least an internship for a full-time gig.

* Kevin Pillar (63% owned) and Corey Dickerson (65% owned) ended Tuesday night tied with Starlin Castro for the AL lead in hits. Both are top 60 in the Y game. Yet both are available in nearly 40% of Yahoo leagues. I think both players are well past the point of proving their roto roster worthiness.

Pillar’s profile is showing that he’s swinging at more pitches in the strike zone and less pitches out of the zone. That’s a good trend. He’s got speed, and there’s emerging power too in a frame that always looked capable of more. As for Dickerson, he’s hitting righties, lefties, home, away, you name it. If you are holding on to the idea that he’s some platoon-type whose career was made by the Mile High air of Colorado, it’s time to let go of the past.

* Happ wasn’t the only recently called-up prospect of interest in action on Tuesday. With Abe Almonte landing on the DL, Cleveland called up top offensive farmhand Bradley Zimmer on Tuesday to make his MLB debut. Zimmer owned an OPS north of .900 while flashing his intriguing blend of power (5 HR) and speed (9 SB) in 33 games for Triple-A Columbus.

But Zimmer carries with him a fairly sizable contact issue. He’s whiffed 214 times in his past 594 minor league ABs, and his MLB debut on Tuesday saw him fan all three times he came to the plate. Zimmer is owned in 20% of Yahoo leagues, and I operate a couple Yahoo clubs that have helped bolster his percentage owned number. But the K hat trick in his first game was not the ideal first impression. Cleveland has other options for the outfield (Greg Allen, Tyler Naquin) if Zimmer’s contact issues continue to glare.

* Time to get interested in Devon Travis (29% owned) again. He was hitting just .167 a few days ago, but he’s gone 7-for-13 in his past three games with six doubles. He owned a batting average north of .300 with 19 home runs in 163 career games coming into the season. After a fairly hellacious April shower (.130 BA), he’s starting to look a lot more like his old self in May.