Happ, Candelario scorching (but stuck) in Iowa

Top prospects trying to force way onto crowded Major League roster

April 14th, 2017

The Cubs leaned heavily on a core of talented young hitters to bring them a World Series title in 2016. If the start of the '17 Triple-A season is any indication, there are reinforcements just about ready to arrive. If only they had a place to play.

Ian Happ and , the organization's Nos. 2 and 4 prospects, respectively, have gotten off to starts as hot as anyone in all of baseball. Happ, the Cubs' first-round pick in 2015, leads the Minor Leagues with five home runs, including roundtrippers in three straight games April 7-9. After seeing what he did during Spring Training -- a .383/.441/.750 line with five homers and 21 RBIs in 60 at-bats -- it's not such a huge surprise to see him continuing to swing a hot bat.

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"If you asked them in the big league clubhouse, Ian was one of the guys they were most excited about with how he was swinging the bat," Cubs vice president of amateur scouting and player development Jason McLeod said. "The way he's started out, the swings he's taking, it's a continuance of what he was doing in Arizona.

"With the buzz he created this spring, we had to keep ourselves in check and say, 'It's Spring Training, it's Arizona, the ball is flying out, guys are working on stuff.' To see him start the way he left off, it's great to see this guy means business."

Candelario's start is arguably even more impressive than Happ's. He leads the Minors with 15 RBIs, all of which came in three five-RBI games. Candelario recently reeled off a stretch of six straight at-bats with an extra-base hit, raising his slugging percentage to .900 over his first eight games (10 of his 11 hits on the year have been for extra bases).

"Jeimer, since his callup to Triple-A, has been nothing but an ultra professional, performing at a very high level," McLeod said. "To see him get off to this start, we're really, really happy. The organization is really happy for both of those guys."

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Not happy enough to call them up from Iowa, obviously. Happ and Candelario, who also rank as the Nos. 25 and 92 prospects in baseball, respectively, are playing multiple positions to improve their viability. Happ is seeing time at second and the outfield, while Candelario is playing at both infield corner spots, but it's not like there's an opening on the big league roster at any of those positions right now. Just over a week into the Minor League season, no one is clamoring for such a move just yet, but if the duo keeps swinging their bats like this, the knocking on the big league door will get louder.

"It sounds cliché, but they should only focus on the controllables," McLeod said. "Come to the ballpark, be prepared and good things are going to happen for those guys.

"As far as the future goes for them, it's to be determined. We don't know, and they don't know. The cards will play out down the road. Who knows what the future holds? We have a good team and a young team, but you never know what can happen."