Ian Happ was drafted as a second baseman coming out of college, but last year it seemed pretty clear the Cubs had moved on from the idea of playing him there. He only logged three innings at second in 2018, but as Cactus League games approach in 2019, Happ will get a shot to prove he’s capable enough to play there in the regular season.
There are no guarantees, but as part of Joe Maddon’s plan for the middle infield, Happ is in the mix at second base right now.
After last season ended, Happ had a conversation with Maddon and was direct: He wants to be included in the second base picture.
“We were in contact several times,” Maddon said Sunday. “One of the things I really like about Ian is that he is very lucid and transparent regarding what he’s thinking and he brought that to my attention.”
Happ’s competition is Ben Zobrist and Daniel Descalso, both veterans with many years of experience, but they’re not getting any younger. David Bote is in the infield mix, but right now he’s viewed as the backup to Javier Baez at shortstop to begin the season. There’s also Addison Russell, who’s serving his domestic violence suspension, but even his future with the team is a mystery.
The Cubs plugged in Happ at second base for most of his playing time in the minors and during his rookie year the switch hitter made 28 starts, appearing at second base in 44 games in 2017. Last year Happ was primarily used in the outfield out of need, but let’s just say his defense at second base also led to the shift in focus to the outfield in 2018.
“When you watch him, he’s still a work in progress when it comes to being — for lack of a better term — a little bit more smooth, but then again, he’s effective,” Maddon said. “I’ve seen some really good defenders that aren’t necessarily this Spalding guy, but they don’t make mistakes. Probably just [improving his] lateral range, going to his right as much as anything, backhanding, throwing that ball. He’s got a really strong arm; he can complete a double play.
Well, it’s spring training. Time to get those reps in and become even more versatile.
And while Happ has had some ups and downs during his first two MLB seasons, he’s driving around like a star.
Shoutout to @polarisslingshot hooking me up with this beast for Spring Training! Be on the lookout I’ll be rolling around AZ 👀 pic.twitter.com/yEZkjXzMI2
— Ian Happ (@ihapp_1) February 18, 2019
Must have loved Yoenis Céspedes car collection.