Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ is showing that he is the everyday center fielder
Chicago Cubs centerfielder Ian Happ ended the 2019 season as NL player of the week and has stayed hot into the 2020 season.
Coming into the 2020 season, there were going to be a few positions battles that Cubs manager David Ross was going to have a close eye on. The second base was going to be a battle between Jason Kipnis, David Bote, and Nico Hoerner. The other position battle was going on in centerfield with Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr.
Heading into spring training, there was probably a slight edge to Happ, especially how he ended the 2019 season. Even though the last week of the season was not fun for the Cubs and Cubs fans, Happ had a great week at the plate and was rewarded with an NL player of the week.
On Happ’s new podcast, The Compound, he said that he was the longest-reigning player of the week because it was the last week of the season, then COVID-19 shut down the baseball season till the end of July.
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Almora made that decision harder on Ross as he got out to an excellent start in spring training. In the end, it was Happ that got the Opening Night start against the Milwaukee Brewers, and he did not disappoint. Happ blasted a two-run home run on Opening Night that proved to be the game-winning hit because of how great Kyle Hendricks was that night.
It is still very early in the year, and he has not had many plate appearances yet, but from what we have seen, Happ has picked up right where he left off from the end of last year. In 44 plate appearances, Happ is slashing .297/.409/.622. With three homers with and six RBIs while walking seven times and striking out ten times. Overall, some good numbers to start the 2020 season.
One of the most telling statistics is Happ’s hard-hit rate has gone up. As of Tuesday this week Happ’s hard-hit rate in 2020 was 47.4%, which is in the 96th percentile in all of the MLB. His career hard-hit rate is 35.6%, so that’s a positive sign that he is hitting the ball harder.
Happ’s been doing all this by hitting the ball harder, in the air, and striking out less as his ground ball rate and strikeout rate is down in 2020 from his career numbers.
Ross has proven that he will ride that hot hand in the early part of the 2020 season. This is something the former manager, Joe Maddon would not do; he liked to mix and match more. Happ has proven himself enough that he should be the everyday Centerfielder.