Since Dexter Fowler departed the Chicago Cubs after 2016, it’s been a bit of a struggle in center field. This year, though, the team has multiple answers.
This may come off as a bit of a hot take, but Albert Almora, Jr. and Ian Happ both play the perfect amount for this Cubs’ team. Almora Jr is clearly the superior defender out in center, which is a tad important when roaming out there. The Cubs, however, are built on offense, and when it comes to offense, Happ is the better player and it’s not particularly close.
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Happ is walking almost 17 percent of his plate appearances, as opposed to Almora’s 5.7 walk rate. Happ brings more power, which is the name of the game in 2018 Major League Baseball.
Overall this season their production is about the same, with Happ at 1.8 WAR and Almora at 1.7, according to Fangraphs.
One could make the argument as to why Happ is the better option. This belief stems from his making the lineup deeper, and more powerful. Almora, though, is a solid player in his own right. Both guys just make their value in different ways. Happ is offense, Almora is a vacuum out in center.
If Happ had enough qualified at bats, he would be in the top 10 of the National League in on-base percentage. With the thump in this Cubs’ lineup, if you get on base, the odds are you will score a bunch of runs. Almora, Jr. makes enough contact to be an effective enough hitter, as he has proven.
(I mean, he is leading the National League in batting average at .320).
There is no reason for this platoon to stop, barring a blockbuster trade, that is. Happ’s name has come up in social media circles as a potential trade chip should the Cubs pursue a marquee starter like a Jacob deGrom. Happ’s defensive numbers don’t like him too much, but defensive metrics take a little time to materialize, so don’t put much stock in those yet.
Both guys have their own value, and both bring things that the Cubs need. Moving forward, the Chicago’s front office and Cubs’ fans should feel very comfortable with those two roaming the outfield.