This switch-hitter is Ross' MVP pick so far

May 7th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian's Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Seiya Suzuki was the Cubs’ big-ticket signing during the spring. The international star jumped out to a great start, making headlines and winning the National League’s Rookie of the Month Award for April. The spotlight has understandably been fixed on his every move since arriving to the Cubs.

“The story has been Seiya,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “But the MVP of our group would probably be Ian Happ, for me.”

True, the season is still in its early stages, and Chicago’s lineup has been trying to break out of a two-week funk as a whole, but Happ has been a steadying presence in the heart of the order. Going into this weekend’s series against the Dodgers, Happ is batting .292/.416/.417 with five extra-base hits, 11 RBIs and a 143 wRC+ (indicating he has hit 43 percent better than league average).

Specifically, the switch-hitting Happ has made strides from the right-handed batter’s box. The sample is still small, but he's batting .391/.440/.522 with a 20 percent strikeout rate as a righty, entering Saturday. Last year, when Happ did not really take off offensively until mid-August, he turned in a .211/.298/.349 slash line with a 30.2 percent strikeout rate from the right side.

“We talked to him a little bit about a mechanical move within it during Spring Training,” Cubs hitting coach Greg Brown said. “He did a lot of work right-handed. I think he takes a lot of pride in that. So, I think you're seeing his overall profile strengthen, because his right hand's really solid.”

Ross pointed out that Happ’s value has not been limited to offense, either.

Per Statcast, Happ is one of 12 MLB left fielders with at least one Out Above Average at his position to date this season. He's also registered four Defensive Runs Saved through 171 innings at the position. As a former center fielder, Happ’s defense has played up since his move back to the corner.

“He's just moving better instinctually,” Ross said. “The jumps are great. He’s going back on balls really well. He seems to be really comfortable.”