Alright Cubs fans, bold prediction time: look for Ian Happ to have a break out year. Happ was drafted in the first round (9th overall pick) of the June 2015 draft by the Cubs, and after spending parts of the 2015 and 2016 seasons playing in single and double-A, Happ rocketed to the majors (spending only 26 games in AAA). Now, after nearly a full year of playing time under his belt, Happ is poised to make a major impact in the major leagues.
Going into spring training, Happ appears relaxed and seems more comfortable with his role as a major leaguer. That’s good news for Cubs fans since it is likely that Happ will enjoy even more playing time this season. In a recent interview with 670 The Score, Cubs President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein, said that Happ “might see a lot of playing time in centerfield”. Playing time seems to be one of the biggest obstacles to Happ’s breakout year. Happ is versatile and can play in the outfield and on the infield. That versatility could be the key to his success since manager Joe Maddon can use him in a variety of ways.
This season, Happ is projected to be one of the top offensive players on the team. Happ is likely to put up similar numbers to the ones he boasted last season, however, with a bit more playing time and consistent at-bats, Happ may exceed those expectations. If he can avoid the sophomore slump and maintain his business-like approach to the game, it is possible that this is the year that Happ will put up big numbers in home runs as well as RBI. Also, look for him to have the first of many seasons as one of the team leaders (if not the team leader) in stolen bases.
So, there it is—my bold prediction for the breakout player of 2018 and it makes me oh so Happ-y.
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Stats by baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com