Cubs top-prospect Ian Happ has opened a lot of eyes this spring around the Cubs organization and fans around baseball. The 22-year old infielder put up a .411/.469/1.272 slash in Cactus League play which stirred up his value even more.
Happ spent last year in high A ball and AA Tennessee with very little to no thought about him possibly playing in the MLB in 2017. His numbers were solid, .272/.362/.814 in both A and AA ball, but nothing that really screamed MLB ready. But after this spring, he is being called “MLB ready” by management.
“Right now he looks great. He’s going to have to go out and play. That’s it. I think he’s really good. He’s a major league player. But he’s kicking it very good.” – Joe Maddon talking to Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales
Does that mean he is making the opening day roster? No. He will be sent to AAA Iowa to start the season, but it seems there is a goal for him to see the bigs sometime this season as reported by a number of outlets including the Tribune. Most fans want to see him up and rightfully so, there’s just one problem…there is really no room for him.
Happ is primarily a second baseman and you already have Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez…which is hard to fit together already. The Cubs pretty much have their roster set and that includes having both Matt Szczur and Tommy LaStella. Schwarber is the starting LF and it’s harder to move Zobrist to left when he is there and even if you do Baez will be at 2nd.
If Happ somehow was on the team he would be playing as a bench guy and that is not how the Cubs want to further develop a top-prospect; he needs to play every day. It sounds like Happ will work on versatility in left field in AAA to have the ability to play everyday and further develop his skills.
Does this mean he will not see the bigs? Not necessarily. I didn’t think Albert Almora would necessarily see MLB action last year and look what happened. One big factor of him being called up was the Dexter Fowler injury so that got him a spot. While we certainly pray no one gets hurt, it’s always a possibility. Even if no one gets hurt and roster expansion happens in September they can very well call him up them. Joe Maddon seems very open to the idea and values him very much. Maybe he will be like 2015 Kyle Schwarber where he was set to be called up for a short stint to play a week and they do that with Happ. While Albert Almora has a place on the team now with Dexter Fowler gone and Happ in an organization where Zobrist and Baez are going nowhere anytime soon, that makes it all more complicated with him.
Ian Happ is overall very complicated. While he had a good spring he still has to play well enough in AAA Iowa to merit a call-up and prove Cactus League play wasn’t a fluke. Many also predict he will be part of a trade to bring in more pitching in the future, so it really is hard to predict what will happen to him. In the end, it is nice when your team’s biggest problem is that they have too much talent to know what to do with.