Early on this season, when questioned about his numbers, Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ insisted his approach was right and the results would come. Now, I don’t think he or the team wanted to wait until late in the year to see a turnaround, but that’s how it played out.
After hitting his career-high 25th home run on Saturday, Happ has played his way back into the long-term picture, thanks to a solid August and finishing the season with his best single-month showing in September (and October). Entering Sunday, the switch-hitter carried an impressive .324/.407/.627 line into action – further evidence of what he’s capable of when he’s locked in at the plate.
Happ credits his skipper, David Ross, with his hot streak that began in mid-August.
"“I think just the confidence of being in the middle of the lineup, especially with Frank [Schwindel] hitting well and [Patrick] Wisdom hitting well [helps]. Being right in the middle of [the lineup], and really feeling like that’s a spot where I belong,” Happ told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I could be a three-hole hitter in this league and be in the middle of an offense driving in runs . . . showing what I’m doing now is huge.”"
Prior to the deadline, there was no chance Happ was batting in the three hole. That was regularly occupied by guys like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant or Javier Baez – for obvious reasons. But with a roster that’s in the midst of being re-tooled, Happ quickly became the guy for Ross and it’s paid off in big ways.
Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ’s re-emergence improve the 2022 outlook
If for nothing else, this performance has likely saved Happ’s spot on the 2022 roster. Had he continued to struggle like he did early in the season, Jed Hoyer would have had a tough decision on his hands this winter. After all, we saw Hoyer cut ties with another former outfielder who battled through inconsistencies at the dish in Kyle Schwarber last winter.
"“Consistency is huge . . . for me, especially in how the year has gone to this point. Having that belief in myself that . . . at some point things are going to turn. Some of those hits are going to fall and things are going to start going my way and that’s kind of when it happened.”"
Happ figures to factor into the team’s plans again next spring, although who exactly surrounds him in the outfield remains to be seen. Jason Heyward, whose contract runs through 2023, just turned in the worst season of his career and is shelved for the remainder of the year with a season-ending concussion. What the Cubs decide to do with the veteran remains to be seen.
If the team stays internal with the third and final spot, guys like Trayce Thompson, Rafael Ortega and Greg Deichmann could factor into things. But it seems likely Chicago hits the free agent market to shore up the outfield depth.
Regardless, Happ has proven the doubters wrong and come roaring back in the second half. Now, it’s about carrying that momentum forward into next year.