State of the Cubs: Left field is set for 2023, but what happens beyond that?
The 2022 season is over and the Cubs are facing one of the most important offseasons in recent memory. Before the stove starts heating up, we examine where the Cubs depth chart stands at each position and where the holes might be for Jed Hoyer’s front office to fill.
Next up: Left Field
- Ian Happ
- Nelson Velázquez
- Patrick Wisdom
- Narciso Crook
- Brennen Davis
- Alexander Canario
- Darius Hill
This is one of two positions (along with right field) that are straightforward — it’s Ian Happ’s job.
Happ developed into an All-Star in 2022, posting a 4.3 WAR to go with a .781 OPS and 42 doubles. He put it all together this season after showing his potential in bursts in his first few seasons in the majors. The 28-year-old was solid defensively, too, being named a finalist for the NL Gold Glove in left field.
“I think it creates belief,” David Ross said in the final series in Cincinnati. “It creates a stability. Talking to a lot of these outfielders — left [field] and right [field] are taken.”
His growth has been impressive. Happ identified where he needed to develop in the last offseason, worked on it and improved himself. It allowed him to be consistent and cement his position as the everyday left fielder of the Chicago Cubs.
“He’s just getting such a well-rounded game. You’ve seen a growth of a young man that’s gone through a lot of adversity and tried to please a lot of different people to try to maximize what everybody else wanted,” Ross said. “I think he’s learned over the times this is what he’s gonna do to be the best version of [himself] and it’s been a really good version.”
Happ also has developed into a leader within the clubhouse which is especially important among a young, inexperienced group of everyday players.
Behind Happ, the Cubs have Velázquez and Wisdom on the active roster. Velázquez played in 77 games in his first big-league season, hitting .205 with 6 home runs. Wisdom primarily played third base but bounced around the diamond, playing first base, left field, right field and 7 innings at center field.
Crook got his first big-league taste this season and was someone the Cubs targeted as a minor-league free agent last offseason. He is on the 40-man roster and could provide depth if he remains on the roster all offseason.
A genuine backup possibility in 2023 comes in the form of top prospects Canario and Davis. Both played at Triple-A and could realistically debut next season. The Cubs could opt to have them play some left field to manage their big-league workload instead of having them play the more difficult center field.
The question becomes what happens to the future of left field beyond 2023? That’s when Happ is scheduled to become a free agent. The two sides could come to terms on an extension and negate that question but if they don’t, then the possibility that Davis or Canario become the everyday left fielder — even as early as the trade deadline — is very real.
The Cubs are pretty deep at the outfield position already with Happ, Velázquez, Seiya Suzuki, Rafael Ortega, Crook, and Canario all on the 40-man roster. That doesn’t include Wisdom and Christopher Morel, who also can roam the outfield. If the Cubs decide to move on from Happ, there’s plenty of in-house options already available.
As it stands, Happ will be the Cubs’ Opening Day starter in left field and that’s a good thing. He provides All-Star level play all around and provides a boon to the middle of the Cubs lineup. The Cubs and Happ will likely work towards an extension, but if that doesn’t come through, there are plenty of in-house options to cover left field for the Cubs beyond 2023.