Ian Happ is Not Expected to Rotate in at 2B, But Don't Expect to See Less of Him

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Ian Happ is Not Expected to Rotate in at 2B, But Don’t Expect to See Less of Him

Chicago Cubs

When Ian Happ was promoted to the Major Leagues last season, he wound up playing 810 innings in the field, splitting his time at second base (32.1%), third base (2.1%), center field (42.7%), left field (14.0%), and right field (9.0%)

With over 65% of his time spent on the grass, it was more accurate to call Happ an outfielder (or a hippie (because grass (I’m sorry))) than anything else. Of course, that was a bit of a change for the Cubs 2015 first round pick.

While Happ had always split time at multiple positions across the field during his brief Minor League career, he actually spent a majority of his time at second base (53%), with the rest coming in center (21.9%), left (14.2%), and right field (10.8%) – 1719.2 total innings.

But when he came up to the Majors, the Chicago Cubs already had Javy Baez, Ben Zobrist, and Tommy La Stella fighting for time on the right side of the infield  … and you know what? They still do. So what does that mean for Happ’s likely position split this season?

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Well …

As we know, Happ’s been busy this spring, slashing .333/.418/.875 with 7 homers in 17 games, all of which have been played in the outfield (mostly in center). And from the sound of it, the outfield is where he’ll stay when the regular season begins on Thursday.

And given how well he’s transitioned to the outfield last season (above average arm, range, and UZR, according to FanGraphs, visually looked at least passable), the questions about his defense at second base all along anyway, the lone starting vacancy in center field, and the immovable presences of Baez, Zobrist, and La Stella, this is not a huge surprise, right?

The “Albert Almora” of it all does throw a wrench in things, but Almora’s spring stats did not help his cause (to the extent that matters at all), and while he’s a clearly superior defender, Happ’s no slouch either.

Even still, it all does become more interesting when you think about this …

If Happ begins to emerge as a guy you’ve gotta have at the top of the lineup regularly, and if he’s not going to work in at second base, does he become the 80% CF and then make up the other 20% in the corners? I think that’s a perfectly reasonable solution (again assuming he turns into the guy we think he can be). 

And when there’s a lefty on the mound, you can still start Albert Almora in center field, but instead of sitting Happ, you could sit one of the other two left-handed outfielders, Kyle Schwarber or Jason Heyward. Both have had issues with lefties in the past, though each also comes with reasons you might not want to stick them in a platoon, at least right out of the gate.

But if Happ is hitting so well that you need to start him every game at the top of the lineup? And if he’s not going to play in the infield? Then some kind of rotation among the other outfielders will have to be worked out.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami