If Chicago Cubs prospect Ian Happ would have gone to Triple-A Iowa and put up pedestrian numbers, I think that would have been fine with the Cubs. But that’s not what he’s done at all. Some say he’s guaranteed to be packaged in a trade. Others say the Cubs are committed to his development. So which is it?
The Chicago Cubs would never say they would want to see a player head to the minors and cool off. But the fact that Ian Happ got enough people talking during Spring Training about possibly making the roster? A little hiatus from “Happ fever” would have been welcomed. The thing is, he hasn’t slowed down. And that fact will continue to press the issue on what the Cubs should do with the 22-year-old switch-hitter.
Happ was never going to make the Opening Day roster. But that he even played himself into that conversation says a lot about the young man. In 29 Spring Training games this season, he batted .383 with five home runs and 21 RBIs. And while he hasn’t maintained the same pace, he hasn’t completely let off the gas in Iowa.
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In 13 games at Iowa, Happ is only hitting .264. But he’s cracked six home runs already in just 13 games. The Cubs are also going to get him some time over at third base to help develop even more versatility for the young slugger. At just 22, the plan of what to do with him is unknown. Some believe he’s surefire trade bait–likely to go this summer for potential pitching. But others feel the Cubs are putting in the effort and commitment to Happ as a possible replacement for Tommy La Stella, Matt Szczur or both.
There’s no denying that the trade value for Happ is high right now. And the Cubs are on the lookout for young pitching over the summer, particularly at the trade deadline. But if Jeimer Candelario continues to play well, he could be the more likely of the two to get bundled and shipped off in a trade. Happ’s “potential” versatility and ability to switch-hit could be the key that keeps him with the Cubs.
Will the at-bats be there for Happ?
The downside to calling him up this year is the lack of at-bats the Cubs will be able to provide. And if he gets the call earlier than September? Even worse. Look at the opportunity that La Stella and Szczur have had. Very minimal. It’s becoming more evident each day that Szczur’s time with the Cubs may be drawing to a close. With outfield his only position and the Cubs current rotation, there’s nowhere for him to play.
La Stella can at least provide quality at-bat off the bench. But he’s not often needed in the field. Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist have been shifted around the infield, and La Stella is another one that just can’t get the at-bats that are needed. So would it make sense to call up Happ?
It’s impossible for me to foresee the future for the Cubs. But in the same sense that Albert Almora and Willson Contreras came up and never left–I feel Happ could do the same thing. It’s all going to depend on what they do at the trade deadline. If Happ is still a member of the Cubs, I think it’s a safe bet they’re committed to him and his development.