Chicago Cubs: First-rounders who failed to live up to expectations

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

During the end of June and the beginning of July, the Chicago Cubs hit rock bottom. The team suffered an 11-game losing streak and looked the worst they had all season. The bats were quiet, and even the relief pitching, which had been the lone bright spot much of the year, started showing cracks.

All said, this losing streak set the tone for the rest of the season as Jed Hoyer has declared the team sellers ahead of the upcoming July 30 trade deadline. Looking back at the team’s offseason, this should hardly come as a surprise.

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Some might argue there was the hope of the Cubs building through the MLB Draft. This year’s MLB Draft took place on July 13. Considering the North Sider’s dire need of pitching, the team selected a left-hander out of Kansas State named Jordan Wicks in the first round. Wicks, 21, is known for his change-up and has a solid fastball and slider as well. From the looks of it, he won’t need a significant amount of time before he makes it to the big leagues. This sounds like great news from a fan’s perspective; the Cubs will have a new arm to help alleviate the pitching staff’s shortcomings. However, it is not that easy.

The Chicago Cubs have been spotty with first-round draft picks

In recent history, the Cubs have not had the best luck with drafting first-rounders. Take Albert Almora and Ian Happ as just two examples. Almora, 27, was the No. 6 overall draft pick in 2012. Though Almora is and always was a stellar defender and was a piece of the 2016 championship run, he never lived up to expectations.

For several years, Almora was within the Cubs organization and played in the bigs from 2016 to 2020, slashing .271/.309/.398. Sure, this is OK for your average Joe. However, more was expected out of a number six overall pick.

After the front office let him walk, Almora found himself in the Big Apple with the New York Mets. This season as a backup centerfielder with the Metropolitans, Almora played many games in the majors, but his tenure was cut short as he fell victim to a left-shoulder bruise. After Almora was reactivated, he quickly found himself sent down to Triple-A Syracuse after hitting .075 on the season. Whether this is a sign of bad luck or future regression remains to be seen.

Besides Almora, another first-rounder that has not lived up to expectations is Ian Happ. Happ was drafted as the ninth overall pick out of the University of Cincinnati in 2015. After reaching the major leagues two years later in 2017, he had a great rookie season hitting 24 homers in 115 games. He also finished the season with an OPS of .842. However, in 2018, Happ regressed, and his numbers fell across the board. As a result, he spent the majority of 2019 in Triple-A Iowa.

After being called back up in late 2019, Happ improved offensively. He started regularly in 2020 and even received a few MVP votes but was not as lucky in 2021. This season, Happ started hot but has quickly cooled off and stayed ice cold. He is slashing .177/.289/.319 and currently trying to break out of the worst slump of his career.

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With the team’s plans to sell and move in a new direction, Happ’s future with the team could be in jeopardy. With the trade deadline quickly approaching, there was no saying what moves will be made. Whatever the case may be, hopefully, the Cubs can turn it around, and soon.