Cubs' Ian Happ's 1st Gold Glove representative of 2022 breakout

Gold Glove honor representative of Ian Happ’s 2022 breakout originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Ian Happ’s offense gets majority of the attention when discussing his breakout 2022, and for good reason.

His defensive improvement is also representative of the major step forward he took, and it’s earned him some hardware.

Happ won his first career Gold Glove Award on Tuesday, beating out Christian Yelich (Brewers) and David Peralta (Diamondbacks) to take home the National League honor in left field.

He’s the first Cubs player to win a Gold Glove since Javy Báez and Anthony Rizzo (2020) and only the fourth outfielder in team history. Right fielder Jason Heyward was the last (2017), and Andre Dawson and Bob Dernier are the others.

"I think this kind of completes the package of feeling like you're a really well-rounded player in this league and have just the ability to impact the baseball on both sides," Happ said in a media session Tuesday. "It's been a long road on both sides of the ball, but definitely defensively with all the different positions.

"Finding a home and feeling like not only are you able to play there every day, but you're able to make an impact and do so in a positive way and have this kind of recognition is really cool."

Happ’s strong finish to 2021 led into the most consistent offensive season of his career in 2022, in which he earned his first All-Star nod.

But Happ — who often moved around the diamond earlier in his career — settled into left field after the 2021 trade deadline and ran with the chance to focus on one position. The 2022 season was his best defensively, as reflected in three key metrics:

— Happ led NL left fielders with 13 Defensive Runs Saved, a career high and second-most in baseball, behind Cleveland's Steven Kwan (the AL Gold Glove winner in left)

— Happ led all left fielders in Ultimate Zone Rating

— Happ finished tied for fifth in Outs Above Average (1) among left fielders

"He identified what he wanted to be," manager David Ross said of Happ at the end of the 2022 season. "Part of that was being consistent, part of that was expanding his game, being versatile. I know a lot of that has to do with getting the at-bats in his mind and moving over the left field, a consistent spot.

"He played center a lot, probably not his ideal position, but we had a hole there. Now we put him in left and he’s owned that and become one of the best left-fielders in the game."

Long before he was with the Cubs, Happ thought about what it would be like to win a Gold Glove in the major leagues. He was a shortstop as a kid who loved watching Omar Vizquel defensive highlights.

And now?

"To be able to have this one on the mantle and to have the award with my name on it is really, really cool," Happ said.

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