Cubs Ian Happ: 2018 Fantasy breakout player

The Cubs had a solid group of young players they brought up over the years. Ian Happ is leading the next group and could be a 2018 breakout player.

The Chicago Cubs spent plenty of years in the basement while they acquired prospects to build for the future. We saw that culminate with a World Series title. Yet, I don’t think they’re done. With many more prospects waiting, Ian Happ displayed excellent power in a shortened season. There is a breakout waiting to happen.

Happ made his Cubs debut on May 13, missing 35 games to start the season. After 115 games, he finished with a .253 average, 24 home runs, 68 RBI and 62 runs scored. Happ finished as the No. 120 batter on the Player Rater. If his average was a little higher or he played a full season, there is no doubt he would have been a top-100 hitter.

As he started out in the minors, Happ was an interesting hitter. He had a 16.4 walk rate with a 23.5 strikeout rate in 69 High-A games. While the walk rate is nice, striking out almost 25 percent of the time is not what fantasy owners want.

As he progressed, Happ’s walk rate dropped and his strikeout rate continued to rise. With the Cubs, he had a 9.4 walk rate and 31.2 strikeout rate, which led to his .328 on-base percentage.

On a positive note, Happ saw a drop in his groundball rate and rise in his flyball rate as he moved up the Cubs farm system. He had a 45.3 GB rate and 35.8 FB rate in 65 Double-A games in 2016. That improved to a 40.2 GB and 39.7 FB rate in Chicago.

Surprisingly, Happ showed off some speed too. He stole seven bases in 115 games. Pairing that with 30+ home runs and a possible .280 season, Happ could have a double-digit steals season. Of the 29 hitters with at least 20 steals, only nine had at least 20 home runs.

The Cubs used Happ all over the field last season. He played 82 games in the outfield, 44 games at second base and four games at third base. In most leagues, he will carry 2B/OF eligibility into 2018. I like that kind of eligibility as he could be a starting player or slot into your middle infield spot.

There is a rumor that the Cubs trade for slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Chicago would have to shed a few prospects and maybe even cough up some money in order to get him. One of those prospects is likely to be Happ. A starting job is hard to come by already, adding Stanton would make that worse.

With Stanton gone, Happ could fill in one of outfield spots. In a lineup with Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, Justin Bour and Marcell Ozuna, Happ could crush 30 home runs and drive in close to 90 RBI in the heart of that order.

Until that blockbuster trade happens, Happ is still on the Cubs. The playing time is going to be the big question for him heading into 2018. Chicago has Ben Zobrist at second base and an outfield trio consisting of Kyle Schwarber, Alberto Amora and Jason Heyward. If they were in the American League, he could easily be the DH.

Happ is a late-draft pick in standard leagues. With second base a little deeper than usual, I would draft him as a No. 5 outfielder and have him fill in on your starting second baseman’s off days. If he stays in Chicago, his playing time will be limited if he doesn’t win a starting job. If he is traded, then he will likely be a starting player as a No. 5 hitter. If it’s the latter, his value skyrockets.

That is a lot of ‘ifs’ but there is also a lot of offseason left until Opening Day.