Among the new rules for the Chicago Cubs and shortened Major League Baseball season include a designated hitter in the National League.
The rule helps a team like the Chicago Cubs who have some offensive depth to choose from. The prominent names on the roster are Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras. A guy like Steven Souza with injury problems, but power is another option. Jason Kipnis signed as a free agent in the off-season, and maybe having him focus on just offense is one way to unlock some of his old offensive skill, perhaps?
Maybe new manager David Ross will follow in old manager Joe Maddon’s footsteps and be unconventional in filling out the designated hitter spot. Will it be a rotating spot, or will he have an actual designated hitter?
Chicago Cubs’ Ian Happ
Placing Ian Happ as the designated hitter removes a lot of versatility on the field, as he can play all three outfield spots, and chip in at first base, second base, and has stepped in at third base where needed as well. Happ has the power and patience of a designated hitter, smashing 24 home runs his rookie year, as well as a career 112 wRC+. He walks 12 percent of the time, which is considered above average to excellent, by Fangraphs’ rankings.
Happ was primed for his best season yet, after seemingly figuring out his contact issues in 2019, chopping his strikeout rate down to just 25 percent.
Conventional wisdom says that Happ’s athleticism will be used on the field, and he’ll move around at multiple positions. He played both infield and outfield at the University of Cincinnati, and the 2nd base competition is wide open, don’t be surprised to see Happ try and seize that spot.
If one of the players mentioned above takes over the DH spot, Happ can slide in and play that spot full-time. With everybody’s status for the season up in the air due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Happ’s versatility will be utilized even more in a shortened season. There may be more days off for regulars, which teams can afford to do with the bigger rosters for 60 games.