Chicago Cubs: Spring performances leading to increased optimism
Ian Happ could break out in a big way this season. While I stick by my previous statement that spring stats are more or less meaningless, it’s definitely not a bad thing to see guys tearing it up. And that’s exactly what Ian Happ has been doing. This spring, he’s 8-21 (.429) with four home runs, two from each side of the plate.
Joe Maddon might not be sold on Ian Happ as the Cubs’ new leadoff hitter, but he’s certainly making a compelling case anyway. Sure, you’d like to see more patience, but being the only switch-hitter besides Ben Zobrist on the team makes him an intriguing option.
Even if his rookie year is his floor, he’s already a solid Major League player. In 2017, he slashed .253/.328/.514 with 24 home runs and 68 RBI in just 115 games. But that shouldn’t be his floor. He is going to get better.
Destined to start?
It’s beginning to look more and more like Happ needs to be a regular player on this team. The situation is complicated, though. He’s versatile defensively, as he’s able to play center field and second base. He’s a better second baseman than he is a center fielder, but Javier Baez and Addison Russell make up one of the best defensive infields in the league. The Cubs likely aren’t going to break that up.
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That leaves him in center field. But that position isn’t without competition, either. Albert Almora showed marked improvement at the plate last season. And he’s better defensively than Happ. It’s a complicated problem, but a good problem to have.
Both players might be relegated to platoon roles in the beginning of the season until one of them emerges as the superior option.