Asking “who’s next?” when referring to a seemingly endless stream of young talent coming from the Cubs minor league system sounds a bit greedy nowadays. Established guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are still extremely young while budding players like Albert Almora Jr. and Wilson Contreras might still be considered prospects by some. But if we look to the east we see a team in Boston that is still reaping the benefits of Theo Epstein drafts and International signings, so maybe greed is to be expected.
One player to keep an eye on this summer is Ian Happ. Happ is a 22 year old second baseman (for now) who was drafted number 9 overall out of the University of Cincinnati. He is one of the more polished players in the Cubs system and in the minor leagues overall, making it to AA last season and putting together a .733 OPS in 65 games. Whether the Cubs view him as a potential every day starter or simply a utility man will likely dictate his usage in 2017. The switch hitter has a high floor, making him a great bench option in the playoffs but his ceiling is yet to be determined. At least, by us normies who don’t work in the Cubs front office.
This is of course assuming the Cubs eventually have somewhere to put Happ if he keeps developing throughout the season. One of the “issues” with having a really good team is that a lot of your prospects are going to get stuck in AAA. Happ could potentially be a top 20 prospect coming into the 2017 campaign, but he might be best suited for an outfield that will get crowded in a hurry. His defensive concerns at second base might peg him for a future in left field, but that position is currently occupied by Bam Bam.
When it comes to thinking about where prospects will play when they get to the Bigs, the issue is generally overblown. Joe Maddon showed you last year how you can manage an influx of supreme talent while making sure everyone gets their at-bats. Of course you’ll have some complaints such as last year with Miguel Montero, but that comes with the territory. If you’re putting on a Cubs uniform every day and your name isn’t Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, or any of the main core of hatch-lings, you can be sure someone else is ready to take your place if you slip up.