Ian Happ Will Begin the Season in AAA

Ian Happ (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Ian Happ (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

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.

https://twitter.com/sahadevsharma/status/1109594859868831744

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.

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  • Wow. Performance over potential...

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    2019 is about performance not potential. Maybe schwarbs will now play every day and hit 35-40 HRs

  • In reply to I am Mo:

    Schwarbs has a lower lifetime batting average than Happ. If it were TRULY and ONLY about performance, he would have been sent down too. Between Happ, Bote, Schwarber and Descalso, you have FOUR sub .240 hitters. I guess one had to go.

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    In reply to INSaluki:

    Schwarber his .238/.356/.467 last year. An OPS of .823.
    Batting average is not the best measure of offensive production.
    Happ struggled the entire second half, and the entire Spring...and is a man without a position right now.

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    In reply to Jason Heer:

    I am reading more analysis on this site based SOLELY on BA than I have ever read on here before (I came on board in 2013--not as long as some "Denizens"). It isn't that people didn't talk about BA before but it was done in context with OBP and SLG. And if BA was brought up on its own it didn't result in people making bold assertions like who should/shouldn't be on the team.

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    In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    How is putting a guy drafted just a few years ago into AAA "Performance over potential"? He came up to fill a hole in the roster, did really well ("caught lightning in a bottle"), and then, predictably, struggled. I don't think this means he will be a career minor leaguer. He needs consistent playing time and the place for something like that for someone his age is minor league baseball. He still has "potential." But he also has a clearer idea than most minor leaguers about just how hard it is to sustain success in the major leagues.

  • That's shocking. I think that it's the right move tho. He has struggled for awhile.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Agree. Was shocked to read the news just now, but I like the decision, which I'm sure wasn't an easy one. I know he's not happy about it, but I'm interested in seeing how he can still develop with regular playing time in an environment without as much pressure as there is in a pivotal season for this Cubs team. I'm sure he'll be up with the team before September, but I really wanna see him earn the promotion.

    This also sends a message to the other players like Almora, Schwarber, and Russell that they need to continue to produce to stick around.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    And Bote & Zagunis or whoever else takes Happ’s place... This might be the right move at the moment, but I wouldn’t get too excited about his in-house replacement just yet.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Only reason I didn’t bring up Bote or Zagunis, who probably will be the OF bench replacement for Happ, is with them having less experience they are obviously in a bench role where they should occasionally be inserted in spots that are ideal for them to be successful. Almora and Schwarber will likely play almost every day now, so much more should be expected of them. And if Russell is going to play any more regular season games for the Cubs come May, he should be held to the same standard of producing at the big league level on a consistent basis, or maybe he could use a demotion too. I think we’ll need him though, because Zobrist will likely play a lot in April and he’s gonna need more rest days which will allow Russell to play, if he’s not traded (I think he’s gonna still be a Cub).

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Yep, perfectly said.

  • MLB Trade rumors claims the Cubs are looking for a CF. I'm skeptical, unless they think a speedy defensive veteran is the answer. As for Happ, I'm gratified to see that he has to earn his way back onto the 25-man roster. After last year's performance, he knew he needed to improve. This is a move that might benefit both him and the Cubs in the long run.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Yeah, I don’t see the cubs spending any money to bring in a backup centerfielder. We’ve already got 2 in Almora and Heyward for games when Almora sits.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I’m pretty sure if they pick up someone it’s going to be either a waiver claim or trade for somebody before they’re cut. I’d be surprised if it was a glamorous go for it type move. I don’t underestimate Theo n Jed, but they’ve been lying very low this offseason.

  • I am glad to see the cubs make this move. Happ is struggling. I hope he goes and makes the necessary adjustments to get him back to the bigs. I saw a tweet that Happ owns the all time record for K % for a single season.
    Hope the new hitting coach doesn’t get blamed for this one?

  • Duensing designated for assignment, per Jesse Rogers of ESPN.

  • My entire life, unfortunately too many years now, we've been told that spring training stats don't matter. And I still agree. I don't feel that Happ struggling this spring was the entire reason. Let's be honest, Bote, while tearing the cover off the ball, will go back to being a average (batting) hitter when the season starts.

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    Spring training stats don't matter.

  • I guess then the Cubs will be hapless this year. At least for a while.

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    In reply to Aquinas wired:

    We had over a century of being "hapless" so what's a season or two more?

    I see what you did there.

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