Cubs

While Cubs offense struggles, Ian Happ continues his development in Triple-A

While Cubs offense struggles, Ian Happ continues his development in Triple-A

A little bit of Backup Quarterback Syndrome surrounds the Cubs right now.

Just like with the Bears when the starting quarterback isn't playing well, the backup QB often becomes the most popular guy in town.

So with Daniel Descalso, Addison Russell, Albert Almora Jr. and Carlos Gonzalez struggling of late, many fans are wondering where Ian Happ is and why the Cubs haven't called him back up from Triple-A Iowa.

That quartet of players is slashing a combined .180/.269/.245 (.514 OPS) in June with a 28 percent strikeout rate and only 2 homers and 12 RBI over 160 plate appearances. 

But the Cubs didn't send Happ down to the minors because of Almora, Descalso or even Russell. The organization felt he needed to make some adjustments with his swing and offensive approach — namely from the left side of the plate. 

In a perfect scenario, Happ would cut down on strikeouts without losing any of the power that has led him to hit 39 homers in 751 at-bats during his first two big-league seasons. 

However, it hasn't quite worked out that way, as the 24-year-old switch-hitter is hitting just .225 with a .347 on-base percentage and .399 slugging percentage in 72 games for Iowa. He does have 45 walks, but also 85 strikeouts and only 23 extra-base hits (11 homers). 

Even more concerning is much of that damage has come from the right side of the plate (.803 OPS, 4 homers) while he's struggled as a left-handed batter (.207 AVG, .721 OPS, only 7 HRs in 169 at-bats).

Happ's progress also hasn't exactly been linear. His OPS by month:

April: .741
May: .806
June: .667

"I think from a development stage, it's good," Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said last week. "He's been swinging the bat well from the right side. Still working on things from the left side that he's been working on since spring training. But the attitude is fantastic. He's working hard. 

"It just feels like a matter of time until he goes on a run and gets back to where he was before. We're kinda waiting on that a little bit — he's waiting on that. But given the work he's done and where he is mentally, I think that's just a matter of time."

Iowa manager Marty Pevey raved about Happ's work ethic and attitude, but also acknowledged that it hasn't yet clicked for the young switch-hitter and that can be frustrating and difficult to maintain the right mental approach.

Happ admitted that frustration — especially early on — in a conversation with The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma last week

But those around Happ in the Cubs organization haven't lost any faith in him.

"He's 24 years old," Pevey said. "He would almost be the youngest guy on the big-league team still. ... He's got so much talent. When the light comes back on for him and stays on, he's gonna be able to help the big club for a long, long time."

In spring training, the plan was for Happ to play both second base and outfield. But that was before he was demoted, of course.

As he works on his swing, Happ hasn't played second base with Iowa since June 1 and has only started 8 games on the infield this season, spending almost all his time in center field. 

"I think the biggest thing there is we just want him to get his at-bats and not worry about the defensive side of things," Joe Maddon said. "I think that's pretty much it. He can still come in and play second base, but moving it forward, if you could really nail down that swing from the left side and be pertinent in the outfield, that would be the first priority."

Regardless of how those on big-league club is playing or what the roster situation might be, the Cubs are committed to Happ's development and don't want to rush him. 

"The situation with Ian, you really want to make sure that you feel good about that," Maddon said earlier this month. "You don't want to just [call him up] because you think you have to do something like that. You got a young player, still learning his craft and getting better at what he's doing. 

"So you don't want to pull the plug. It's not an experiment, it's a developmental situation — so make sure that that is in place before you actually do bring him back. That's why you sent him there in the first place."

Baseball America names Cubs’ Miguel Amaya as breakthrough catching prospect

Baseball America names Cubs’ Miguel Amaya as breakthrough catching prospect

If and when the 2020 baseball season commences, Cubs prospect Miguel Amaya could be in store for a big performance.

Baseball America named Amaya, one of the Cubs top minor leaguers, as its breakthrough catching prospect for 2020.

The Cubs added Amaya to their 40-man roster last November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. The 21-year-old is known as a strong defensive catcher who's only getting better at the plate. Last season, he hit .235/.351/.402 with 11 homers and 57 RBIs in 99 games at advanced-A Myrtle Beach.

Amaya was in big league camp this spring before being optioned to Double-A Tennessee on March 10. The Cubs have one of the best catching duos in baseball in Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini, so we won’t see Amaya in the big leagues until 2021 at the earliest.

That doesn’t mean Amaya can't play in the show right now. Cubs manager David Ross had a strong parting message for Amaya upon his way out of camp.

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Two Cubs employees test positive for COVID-19

Two Cubs employees test positive for COVID-19

Two Cubs employees who attended the same March 8 training session have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, the team confirmed Sunday.

One is recovering at home; the other hospitalized receiving treatment, the team said.

The seasonal game-day workers informed the team of their conditions in recent days.

“There’s nothing definitive to suggest [the] training may have contributed,” team spokesman Julian Green said, noting nearly three weeks have passed since the annual season staff training session.

But the team has responded “out of an abundance of caution, transparency and responsibility” during this uncertain time, Green added.

The U.S. surgeon general on Friday identified Chicago as a coronavirus “hot spot,” anticipating a wave of new cases.

The Sun-Times first reported the March 23 and 24 positive tests.