Chicago Cubs boast plenty of under-the-radar storylines entering season

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: Can Happ and Almora be successful platooning in the outfield?

Perhaps one of the biggest frustrations among Cubs fans last season was the notable inconsistency from both Ian Happ and Albert Almora.

Despite posting a higher OBP in 2018, Happ’s slugging percentage plummeted from the year before, and his strikeout rate rose by nearly five percent. He was having a solid first half, with 11 homers and an .832 OPS, but he hit .196 and slugged just .340 after the All-Star Break.

However, the former first-rounder did post an .816 OPS against right-handers, which kept him in the lineup as Maddon desperately searched for production.

Almora’s season was also a tale of two halves, as he hit just .232 in 181 plate appearances during the second half after posting a fantastic .319 clip in the first half. He tended to have more success against lefties, although the split advantage is less pronounced than it is in Happ’s case.

There has been plenty of speculation that more frequent platooning in the second half is what caused both players to slump down the stretch. Almora, in particular, was a curious case because he looked to provide the solution at the leadoff spot, with a .333 average from that position on the card.

But Maddon has said that the level of depth that the Cubs have in the outfield necessitates the use of a platoon system, so Happ and Almora must be ready to play every day.

Happ has struggled this Spring, but he also started slow last year before finding his stride in the next few months. Almora, on the other hand, has slugged .618 this Spring after an offseason focused on mechanical adjustments.

Can they become productive players in the platoon? Time will tell.