On the heels of the first Gold Glove and All-Star selections of his big league career, Cubs outfielder Ian Happ is starting to gain national recognition. The latest proof? The switch-hitting former first-round pick was tapped as the league's ninth-ranked left fielder on Monday night on MLB Now.
Happ, 28, remains an extension candidate for Chicago heading into his final season of team control. Whether or not the two sides manage to get anything done, especially considering the outfield prospect depth in the system, remains to be seen. Regardless of what the future holds, though, 2022 was a high water mark for Happ.
Cubs hoping for more of the same from Ian Happ in 2023
In 158 games, he accumulated 4.4 bWAR and posted a 119 OPS+. Happ's 42 doubles ranked tied for third in the Senior Circuit and his noted improvement from the right side of the plate really transformed his game offensively. After putting up a .653 OPS from the right side in 2021, that number jumped to .788 this year - a staggering improvement.
Not only did Happ find that long-sought consistency at the plate, but he played phenomenal defense in left field, too. He ranked in the 78th percentile in Outs Above Average and set a personal best with 14 Defensive Runs Saved, to boot. All that culminated in the first Gold Glove of his career. Now, the thought of Happ teaming up with another stellar defensive outfielder, Cody Bellinger, has us all salivating.
This is a nice nod to the improvements Happ made to his all-around game in 2022. Getting that recognition is a good sign as he heads into his walk year. This season is all about seeing if he can put it all together again. If he does, he could be one of the most sought-after free agents of next winter unless the Cubs lock him up long-term prior to then.