The 24-year old utility slugger was sent to Triple-A Iowa before the Chicago Cubs season began to work on his hitting. He is now through several weeks worth of work down there.
The Chicago Cubs‘ Ian Happ has been trying to work his way back to the majors after starting this season in the minors. This is his first minor league stint since 2017 before he got his call to the majors. Last year he struggled with a .233/.353/.408 slash with a 36.1% K rate. He could draw walks (hence the good on-base percentage) but was not making enough contact.
Happ was not going to be able to play every day with the Chicago Cubs, but down in the minors, he has been. This is a significant factor as to why he was sent down. So far with the Iowa Cubs, he has played in 21 games (through April 26) and has played 17 of those in centerfield and has also played a few games at second base. He is currently slashing .218/.315/.385 with two home runs and 13 RBI.
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There is more to dive into these numbers, as the slash line does not look great. One good thing to note before breaking down the hitting further is he has not made an error at any position so far. Take that as you will as the defense was never a huge focal point of his.
Breaking down his hitting
In those 21 games, Happ had 89 plate appearances. His .218 average consists of eight singles, seven doubles and the two homers. He has walked 10 times but has struck out 28 times, which equals a 31.5% K rate. That is still a problem and a bit concerning considering it is against MiLB pitching. His wRC+ is 73, which is also not great.
Now keep in mind this is a small sample size and things can continue to grow for him, but it is safe to say he is not off to the desired start. Many were hoping he would tear up the minors and get his confidence back and be up soon. We have yet to see that. He has walked seven times the past seven games, and the strikeouts have been cut down during that time, but he only has three XBH since the 17th. Even if the average is not great, we want to see him slugging the ball more.
When will he be back?
This is a tough question to answer. Will the Cubs give him a certain amount of time and then call him up regardless of stats? Or does he have to start mashing to earn his way back? This is a kid who hit 24 homers and sported a .842 OPS in 2017 as a 22-year old and has a career .459 slugging. His potential has been seen in the majors.
There are likely many factors that the Cubs are looking at when determining Happ returning to the club. Things could happen like injuries or other demotions that change the way he is handled, but right now the MLB club has a crowded outfield, and it makes it easier to keep him down longer to work on his game. Hopefully the last few games of increased walks and decreased strikeouts are a sign of good things to come.
Expect more roster shuffling coming soon, especially if the Cubs do bring Addison Russell back when he is eligible to return next week. Whether Happ is involved remains a mystery (more likely not, but who knows) but keep a close eye on who comes up and who goes down.