Joe Maddon says things, man.
After last night’s win over the Giants, the Chicago Cubs’ manager discussed, among other things, the defense he’d like to see in center field from Ian Happ. How he put things was classic Maddon.
“I’m into feet, man,” Maddon said, per CSN. “I just like good feet. I don’t have a foot fetish, other than defense. I have a defensive foot fetish. I admit to it.”
I’m just sitting here with a grin. Ah, Joe.
Of course, what Maddon means is that he likes to see good movement with the feet in the outfield, and that’s what he wants to see from Ian Happ. For more on what Maddon would like to see from Happ going forward, check out Sahadev Sharma’s writeup at The Athletic.
The 22-year-old infielder/outfielder has increasingly played in center, as the Cubs look to find more and more starts for him. There’s already a crowd of two at second base, locked in players at third, in left, and in right, which really leaves only center field as a spot for consistent starts when no one else is resting.
Happ doesn’t have a ton of experience in center field, so there’s going to be a continued adjustment process, as Maddon noted after the game. There are some fundamental things that Happ will have to smooth out with Dave Martinez, who works with the outfielders. But Happ has looked playable out there, at a minimum, and made a really nice sliding catch last night (full video at Cubs.com):
Actually a pretty nice play by Ian Happ in CF https://t.co/ZN14pSRsIg
— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) May 24, 2017
Whether Happ continues to be a “regular” center fielder, or if he moves around remains to be seen. Maddon has already said that he wants to be careful not to grind Happ down (in just his second full professional season, Happ played 134 games last year – and then played in the fall league, and had a longer-than-typical Spring Training for a youngster). There is also the matter of Albert Almora to attend to, a developing young player with significant potential in his own right.
Even after last night’s 0-fer, Happ is hitting .323/.417/.710, with a 187 wRC+ (although that strikeout rate continues to creep up, now reaching 27.8%, and his BABIP won’t stay above .400 forever). He’s performing at such a level at the plate that, if he’s even passable in center field, the Cubs may have to consider continuing to start him there, specifically, even at the expense of Almora.
Incidentally, and with perfect timing, I got a message from our partner Fanatics that they’ve released an Ian Happ shirt (free shipping today, too), so check it out: