In what has to come as a big surprise to most observers, Manager Joe Maddon announced Ian Happ will begin the year in AAA Iowa. Happ has struggled mightily this spring with a batting average currently sitting at .135. After a very good rookie season, the versatile outfielder/infielder struggled in 2018 to a .233 average and .761 OPS while striking out 167 times in just 462 plate appearances. Maddon told reporters Happ was not pleased with the news.
The strong springs of David Bote and Albert Almora also added pressure to Happ's role. The final factor may have been the emergence of Mark Zagunis. Zagunis has always been a disciplined hitter who can get on base, this spring he has added power with 4 homers in 45 plate appearances.
The Cubs hope to get Happ consistent playing time in Iowa to help him regain his form. Almora will likely become the full-time starter in center with this move. Chicago also surprisingly released Junichi Tazawa despite his good spring performance. This is likely good news for Brian Duensing, although the Cubs may still opt for a youth movement in the 'pen.