The Chicago Cubs have had a great season thus far. Many players have stepped up to fill big roles on the team, but no one has produced more than center fielder Ian Happ. The 26-year old switch-hitter has become a key part of their dangerous lineup. He has been a big reason for the 16-8 start, which has Chicago contending for the best record in baseball.
Happ was selected by the Cubs in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft and had his debut in 2017. After a quality rookie year, he had a very disappointing 2018 season. The slugger struggled so much that he even started the following year in the minor leagues, but he managed to find his way back onto the Cubs’ roster.
Since his return to the MLB roster in 2019, he has been incredible. Many players would have been discouraged after being sent down, but Happ took it as an opportunity to retool and improve his game. His swing has improved drastically, which has made him very versatile. Now he is the most consistent hitter on Chicago’s current roster. He may even be locked into their lead-off spot now.
The Answer at Lead-Off
David Ross made a surprising announcement at the beginning of Spring Training when he revealed that star third baseman Kris Bryant would be featured at lead-off. Unfortunately, the experiment hasn’t paid off like Ross wanted it too. Bryant hasn’t performed up to his standards at the plate and continues to deal with a nagging wrist injury. With him missing multiple games, Ian Happ has had to opportunity to shine at the top of the lineup.
In five games at lead-off, Happ is batting .353 with three home runs, and four RBI. What’s interesting about the slugging outfielder is his ability to hit for power from both sides of the plate. He is a dynamic hitter, who fits perfectly at lead-off for Chicago. Whether he remains there once Bryant returns is yet to be decided, but it certainly makes sense for the Cubs.
A Star in the Making
As Happ continues to impress, it’s possible for him to reach All-Star levels in the future. He is expected to be with Chicago through 2023, but they would be smart to lock him down now with a team-friendly deal. He leads the ball club in many categories, including batting average, homers, RBI, and OPS. His production has even put him in the NL MVP discussion. Although Fernando Tatis Jr., Mookie Betts, and former Cub Nicholas Castellanos are the front runners.
Happ also ranks top ten in the league in OPS. It may be tough for him to continue to play at such a high level, but if he does his numbers will rival some of the MLB’s brightest stars. Chicago already has a ton of firepower, and his play just shows how deep this roster truly is. The Cubs weren’t really considered World Series contenders to begin the 2020 season, but they have a strong case now. Ian Happ could be the catalyst for another deep playoff run after they missed out on the action last season. As Anthony Rizzo reiterated earlier this week, it could be their last run with this core group of guys, they’d love to make it a memorable one.
Embed from Getty Images