Former No. 1 pick Ian Happ, sizzling at plate, learning Cubs ways

MESA, Ariz. — Ian Happ is crushing it.

The 2015 first-round draft pick is batting .407 with a pair of home runs and seven RBI in 27 spring at-bats. It follows his strong offensive showing last season, his second in the organization, about half of which was spent at
Class AA Tennessee.

“Yeah, I’m feeling really good at the plate,” the 22-year-old switch-hitting second baseman said.

A key for Happ these days is adding to his killer slash line by adding a meaningful “slash” to his defense. Happ has been hard at work on being able to “bounce out to any outfield spot,” as he put it. Being a second baseman-slash-outfielder is for now a must as he attempts to rise through the system.

The Ian Happ Show continued Monday, with three more hits, including a home run, from the Cubs prospect. (AP/Ross D. Franklin)

“That’s just the way this team is,” Happ said. “When you have the MVP playing five positions, you’d better be able to play your fair share.”

Kris Bryant hasn’t been the only Cubs player to influence Happ’s way of thinking. Ben Zobrist — also versatile, playing both second base and the outfield — has gone out of his way to be helpful.

“He’s always been very giving with information and helpful to me,” Happ said. “We have an open dialogue. The Cubs do such a great job of bringing in the right kind of guys who are going to be open, are going to help you. That’s what we have in this clubhouse. It’s really fun to be a part of.”

But back to Happ and his bat: Any chance he can power his way to the big leagues, like Kyle Schwarber did?

“I think that might be the only way to make this club — to hit until they can’t ignore you,” he said. “So that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Manager Joe Maddon called Happ a “believes-he-belongs here kind of a guy.”

“I get that from him,” Maddon said. “He’s definitely a major-league player in waiting, and his time will come.”

In all fairness, Schwarber has set the bar awfully high.

The Butler is doing it

Pitcher Eddie Butler, a former first-round draft pick of the Rockies, has been a player to watch. He had a rough go of it in Colorado, compiling a 6.50 ERA in 36 appearances (28 starts) over two-plus seasons, but the Cubs have liked what they’ve seen since acquiring the right-hander less than two weeks before the start of camp.

“He’s got a great arm and is a strike-thrower, too,” Maddon said. “He’s shown really well for me. His stuff is well above average, velocity-wise, and he has a really good breaking ball. I think he’s very interesting.”

Butler, who turns 26 on Monday, didn’t let his time in Denver — the hardest place in baseball to pitch — get him down.

“Every other place has got to be easier, right?” he said. “That’s kind of my outlook on it. Me pitching in Chicago, where the ball doesn’t fly like that — most days — could be really good.”

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Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com


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