I don’t think we should draw any near-term conclusions from what follows, because it’s something of an organizational imperative that position players are able to play multiple positions well enough to cover a lot of spots, if possible.
But given the spots at the big league level where bats could be added, I understand that this particular positional flexing will catch folks’ eyes. Nico Hoerner is today starting in center field for the AA Tennessee Smokies, and Ian Happ has recently been playing a whole lot more at second base for the AAA Iowa Cubs.
— Mick Gillispie (@BroadcasterMick) July 9, 2019
In mid-late June, Ian Happ struck out 9 times in a 5-game series. Since then, here's what he's done:
He has also started at 2B five times over that 13 game stretch, after not starting there in the previous 19 games
— TradeForNickCastellanosCountTommy (@FullCountTommy) July 9, 2019
As Happ continues to work (succesfully-ish) through the mechanical changes in his swing necessary to reduce strikeouts and retain power, him seeing more time at second base right now is pretty notable. It doesn’t mean he’s going to come right up and take over second base this month, but it does suggest the Cubs want to keep him reasonably fresh there in case the bat looks ready to return. It’s not impossible to imagine a scenario where Addison Russell is moved out, the Cubs bring in an additional outfielder, and more starts are available to Happ at second base than in center field.
As for Hoerner, I’ll admit I’m surprised to see him already getting time in the outfield – he only just started seeing time at second base – but no one can deny that he’s probably already pretty darn close to being ready to contribute at the big league level with the bat (if only he hadn’t been injured, what might have been … ), so you might as well start the process of getting him used to various positions.
I still think a big league debut this year for Hoerner is unlikely, but part-way through 2020? Absolutely possible. And if that happens, he won’t be seeing much time at shortstop, where Javy Baez will still be living. At that point, though, regular starts will probably require bouncing around among a few spots. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a game at third base at some point, though that one is the easiest transition for a shortstop.