Despite comments that Albert Almora is a great bounceback candidate, Ian Happ deserves the job in center field if it comes down to it for the Cubs.
As fans impatiently wait for this offseason to run its course, many questions still remain in terms of the make-up of the 2020 Cubs. One of those questions pertains to center field. Theo Epstein has notably said an upgrade in center field is crucial this offseason.
Ian Happ spent most of the season in Triple-A, while Albert Almora became one of the worst hitters in all of baseball. Currently, these two are what the Cubs have out in center field and if the season started today, Happ is the one that deserves the starting gig.
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Epstein made comments a few months back stating his belief in Almora and how he believes he is a great candidate for a big bounceback season. I love Epstein as much as the next fan, but what happened last time he bet on ‘his guys’? A third-place finish in the division and an epic collapse to the 2019 season.
Since 2018, Almora has sported a wRC+ of 56, which ranks as the worst out of all qualified hitters. I don’t disagree with the idea that the potential is there, but that is something that needs to be tapped into in Iowa, not starting for this team on Opening Day.
Happ spent over half the 2019 season in Triple-A and when he made it back up, the results showed. In 58 games, he batted .264 with an OPS of .898 and a WAR of 1.2. A smaller sample size no doubt, but he showed significant improvements and made the best of his time in the minor’s.
Happ deserves the opportunity to be this team’s starting center fielder. He respected the organization’s decision last year to start him in Iowa, put the time in and came out better on the other side. He’s put the team first, humbled himself, while showing he has the tools necessary to be the center fielder for the Chicago Cubs.
Almora spent a little bit of time in Iowa in 2019 but was not there nearly long enough to make significant, lasting improvements like Happ did. If he really wants to tap into his potential and bounce back in a big way, spending Happ-like time in Triple-A would be the most beneficial route.
If the Cubs are unable to upgrade the center field position externally this winter, Happ is the guy that should get the keys. It would be an extreme disappointment if the Cubs are as quiet as they were last winter, but the harsh reality is that it may be the case.
The Cubs may experience more frustrations in 2020 banking on more internal improvements, but it will give us the chance to watch fan favorites like Happ get lots of playing time and grow in their development.