Chicago Cubs: Team’s 2018 success heavily dependent on young core

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /

Can Happ and Almora do the job in center field?

In 2015 and 2016, Dexter Fowler patrolled center at Wrigley Field for the Cubs. Last season, a combination of Ian Happ, Albert Almora and veteran Jon Jay handled things for Joe Maddon. With Jay now in Kansas City, it’s up to the two youngsters to hold things down this year.

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Happ has been on an absolute tear this spring, showing impressive power from both sides of the plate. Almora is showing signs of heating up, as well. A platoon seems likely given Maddon’s past tendencies – and splits from these guys.

Almora needs to learn to draw walks or he’ll never be more than a fourth outfielder on a quality team. Sure, he hit nearly .300 last year, but he drew a grand total of six walks in 94 games against right-handed pitching. That won’t play at this level.

Happ, meanwhile, is an unproven commodity. He played incredibly well down the stretch last year, smacking 21 home runs in just 364 at-bats – while learning center field on the fly. His defense remains spotty at times, but the belief is that with more time, he’ll become more comfortable and plays get more routine.

These two could take the Cubs deep into October. There’s no doubt about that. It’s up to Maddon to set the matchups and get them both regular at-bats. And, if Jason Heyward continues to struggle at the dish, their roles could grow even larger.