Don't Sleep on Ian Happ, Developing Nico Hoerner, Astros Effed, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Don’t Sleep on Ian Happ, Developing Nico Hoerner, Astros Effed, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Headed to Chicago this weekend to take in some non-Cubs sports, so that’ll be cool. Or painful. You know the drill.

  • No word from the Cubs coming any time soon on whether Nico Hoerner will break camp in the spring with the big league team, but I think there’s a genuine openness to it:

  • I think Theo Epstein sums up the best answer you’re going to get right now: “I think you can make strong arguments on both sides, whether he should be part of the club on Opening Day or (get) a little bit more seasoning. I think a lot will depend on what else we do (this winter). What type of spring training he had might be a factor as well. But we’re not at the point where we’re ready to make that decision yet.”
  • In other words, it’s not something that is going to guide the Cubs’ offseason maneuverings (though I’d speculate that they’re not going to be signing any primary second basemen to monster length deals). If a good opportunity comes up to make an addition at second base, cool, the Cubs are gonna do it. If not, and if Hoerner just looks too good and ready to send down come March, then he’ll get a shot. I fully believe that.
  • But I still am of the mind that it would be no slight to Hoerner for him to get some time at AAA to open the 2020 season – see some more crafty pitchers who are working to a scouting report. Hoerner is very advanced, clearly, but he barely has any experience even at the AA level, and selectivity is going to be an issue he’ll have to work out. It’s possible he can get a whole lot of benefit in that area at AAA, even if there are no external additions, while the Cubs sort out their large mixture of existing but flawed second base options (David Bote, Ian Happ, Daniel Descalso, Robel Garcia, and Zack Short (I am assuming Addison Russell will be non-tendered)).
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
  • Speaking of that group, just a random reminder that Happ was sent to AAA to open the 2019 season for a long, long stretch of work on improving his contact rate while still manifesting his excellent patience and power. That, despite having spent most of the previous two years as a “ready” player in the big leagues (following a very brief minor league development process). And what do you know, Happ came back with a strikeout rate down 11(!) percentage points from the year before, hitting .264/.333/.564 over 58 games with a 127 wRC+. Points there being, don’t sleep on (1) the value of a stretch at AAA for development, and (2) Ian Happ.
  • Happ’s results weren’t a fluke either – the only Cubs last year who had a higher expected wOBA (based on quality of contact and plate discipline) were Anthony Rizzo, Nick Castellanos, and Kyle Schwarber.
  • Oh, and one more on the demotion development: yes, sometimes you need to face BIG LEAGUE pitchers to work on your issues, but consider some other Cubs who went down after being in the big leagues: Anthony Rizzo (got better), Javy Baez (got better), Kyle Schwarber (got better), Victor Caratini (got better). So anyway, that is all to reiterate: if Nico Hoerner goes down to start the year, that might wind up being a beneficial thing.
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  • The Astros are in for serious trouble not only for 2017, but for 2018 and 2019, too – all of which happened after the league had warned that serious penalties would come for electronically stealing signs:

  • Another look at communications methods by the Astros – presumably for when trash-can-banging wasn’t going to work – with this example being the infamous whistles that the Yankees were complaining about (and the Astros denied):

  • Yasmani Grandal was a member of that Dodgers team that got screwed by the cheating Dodgers, so as you’d expect, he’s extremely pissed about the sign-stealing scandal. Er, uh … wait:

  • Perhaps Grandal is just a guy who takes this perspective generally because he was busted for PEDs in his younger days, or perhaps he has other reasons not to scream loudly about teams that electronically steal signs? Who’s to say …
  • The Cubs will be the first ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game of the year, of course, and it’ll be in Milwaukee:

  • Go win yourself a free shirt:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.