MESA, Ariz. -- Ian Happ has been on a roll, nearly hitting for the cycle on Friday and belting a two-run homer on Saturday. But what the Cubs are happy to see is how focused Happ is on getting better at second base.After every Cactus League game he's played, Happ
MESA, Ariz. -- Ian Happ has been on a roll, nearly hitting for the cycle on Friday and belting a two-run homer on Saturday. But what the Cubs are happy to see is how focused Happ is on getting better at second base.
After every Cactus League game he's played, Happ stops by the coaches' offices to get their reviews on how he did in the field.
"It's becoming natural," Happ said Sunday about playing second. "All the work last year and all the [repetitions] coming into this year -- I'm still working and trying to get better every day, but it's become my position, it's become pretty natural to go out there every day and field ground balls. It feels great."
Jose Flores, the Cubs' Minor League infield coordinator, is proud of how Happ has progressed. After Happ was selected in the first round of the 2015 Draft, he was assigned to short-season Eugene, and then promoted to Class A South Bend. He only played the outfield that year, but everytime Flores would show up in South Bend, Happ would ask when they could start working at second.
The two got together for a week in the offseason in 2015 in Tampa, Fla., and then spent time together last spring in Minor League camp. This year is Happ's first in big league camp.
"When I saw him, I thought, 'this kid is going to be special,'" Flores said, noting Happ has an above average arm. "I give him all the credit."
What may be helping recently is the fact Happ has family in Arizona to watch him play. On Friday, he went 4-for-5 with a double, home run and four RBIs, finishing a triple shy of hitting for the cycle against the Mariners. On Saturday, he he hit a two-run homer off the Rockies' Miguel Castro in the eighth. He joked that he might keep them around all year.
"It was pretty awesome, especially [Saturday] with all those people there [at Sloan Park] and I had some family in town, so it was cool," Happ said of the crowd of 15,501.
Spring Training is nearly one month old, so Happ, the Cubs No. 2 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, has had time to get to know the big league players in camp. He can talk to the other hitters for pointers. What about the recent power surge?
"I've always felt I've had the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark," Happ said. "It's just getting the right pitch and putting a good swing on it. The last couple days I've gotten the right pitch."
And Happ keeps checking with Flores on his glovework.
"We want him to keep working on being a smart second baseman and make the routine plays consistently," Flores said. "We feel proud to put a little seed out there and watch it bloom."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon has been impressed.
"When you talk to the guy, he's one of those younger players who believes he belongs here," Maddon said of Happ. "He's definitely a Major League player in waiting and his time will come."
"I'm having a lot of fun," Happ said. "You have to try to [open some eyes], especially on this club with all these guys. You have to play as competitive baseball as you can."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.