Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ looks to seize the leadoff spot
Chances are the Chicago Cubs will use multiple leadoff men throughout the course of the year. Ian Happ will be the first to get his opportunity to prove his worth.
As of now, Chicago Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon has said at least three different players would get their chance at the leadoff position. Albert Almora Jr, Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber are the three expected to get a fair shot at the spot. While Almora and Happ have each had a chance so far, Schwarber is yet to get his.
Happ made a nice defensive play in the opener, making a diving catch on a ball hit to short right field. It was the “play of spring training”–at least after the first day. But in Sunday’s game against the San Francisco Giants, Happ is making an early statement for the spot.
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Happ lead off the game with a leadoff home run against Madison Bumgarner. He then singled off of Ryan Halstead to knock in two more.
It’s still very early in the spring, but Happ is making a name for himself at the top of the order. He’s now going to win the job with just a few games, but it gives him a better start than if he didn’t.
Happ showed promise last season, but if he was to bat from the leadoff spot, he’ll need to get more patient at the plate.
But the key for the Cubs–whoever the leadoff man is–is to take pitches and force the pitcher to see that pitch count elevate.
Another hope is that Chili Davis will implement his plan of attack and the hitters will get more patient at the plate. He’s a situational coach that will preach less about launch angle and exit velocity and more about doing what needs to be done to move the runners along.
There’s a good chance that Maddon might opt to go with a varied attack from the top. Ben Zobrist is another that could factor in, but not until he’s healthy from the sore back will he get a chance to. Zobrist is yet to play in a game this spring.
With Schwarber still to get his opportunity, and Almora’s chance still there–there’s time. With a month to go before the opener, Maddon will use the opportunity.
Next: How will the rotation set out?
The Cubs will expose Almora to right-handers to get an idea of what his potential is. The biggest knock on Almora is that he doesn’t hit them well. The only way to find out is to run him out there from time to time to see how he does.
It’s a good start from Happ, but there is plenty of work to be done. I foresee a combination of Almora and Happ at the leadoff spot. And there may be a chance that Schwarber or Zobrist might fill-in when necessary. Maddon likes to mix and match, and without a guy like Dexter Fowler? I don’t see that changing.