Chicago Cubs: Potential call-ups to replace Mark Zagunis

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Several bullpen arms have already made the trip between Iowa and the Chicago Cubs this season. Is there a bat that could come up from Triple-A soon?

After an excellent spring, Mark Zagunis earned a spot on the Chicago Cubs’ Opening Day roster, while Ian Happ was shipped off to Iowa.

Zagunis earned that roster spot after slashing .370/.444/.761 in Spring Training this year. But since then, he’s had few chances to prove himself. He has just 31 plate appearances this season. That’s the fewest of anyone who’s been on the roster all season, by a long shot. The next fewest is David Bote with 78.

Zagunis isn’t hitting terribly in the chances he gets. He’s batting .241, but he also has 13 strikeouts compared to just two walks. So it seems like there could be a better way to make use of that roster spot.

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The logical option seems to be to call someone else up from Iowa and give them a shot in the big leagues. But who could be up for the task?

Ian Happ

Many were shocked by the news that Ian Happ would not make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training. The outfielder already has one full season in the big leagues under his belt, but he struggled for much of the season, striking out far too much. The return to Triple-A seemed like an excellent opportunity for Happ to get a fresh start and figure things out at the plate.

Now is a natural time to check back up on Happ, and some may suggest him as a potential call-up to replace Zagunis. But a look at his numbers makes you wonder if he’s changed much at all.

He’s slashing .248/.353/.416. That would be a solid stat line in the big leagues, but for a guy who’s returned to Triple-A, you expect better. He’s reduced his strikeout percentage from 36.1% last season to 22.6% this season, which is a good sign. But his wRC+ is at an all-time low for his career at 92.

Happ will likely get called up at some point this season. There’s more to it than the numbers, so if people think he’s done enough to revamp his swing and looks ready to face major league pitching, then he may be the natural replacement for Zagunis. But it seems more likely he will remain in Iowa longer to continue to figure things out.

Johnny Field

It seems logical the Cubs would want to replace Zagunis with another outfielder. Johnny Field is one Iowa Cub with major league experience who could be up for the job.

The Cubs claimed Field off waivers from the Minnesota Twins in November, and he’s been playing well ever since. He’s slashing .286/.343/.592 in Iowa and has a solid wRC+ of 118. Field also has a lot of big league time to bring to the table. He played in 83 games in the major leagues in 2018 with the Rays and the Twins.

While Happ is more experienced, Field might be a better guy to give an opportunity to. It’d be interesting to see how he’d fare on the North Side after getting time in the big leagues last season, and his performance in Iowa so far this season is enough to justify a call-up.

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Zagunis simply isn’t getting enough opportunities to justify him being on the roster right now. It would be good to see the Cubs either give him more opportunities or find someone else to call up (temporarily, at least) in order to make full use of all 25 guys.