Meet Cubs prospect: Ian Happ

by - Correspondent -
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO -- A top prospect for the Chicago Cubs, Ian Happ is progressing very well and quickly through the farm system. The former Cincinnati Bearcat was considered one of the top college hitters in his class, and got drafted ninth overall in the first round of the 2015 draft, and signed for a $3 million signing bonus. He was a utility player in the infield and outfield during his college days.

Happ, 22 years old, ranked the 28th prospect by MLB Pipeline, 63rd by Baseball America, and 54th by Baseball Prospectus going into the 2017 season. Happ made his professional debut with the Eugene Emeralds in 29 games where he hit .283/.365/.445 in 106 at bats. After his stint with the Short-Season Class A team, he got promoted to Class A South Bend Cubs of the Midwest League and hit .241/.315/.448 in 145 at bats in 38 games. After playing in the outfield in his first year of professional baseball, he started transitioning to second base in 2016. He began the season at Myrtle Beach Pelicans of the Carolina League and hit .296/.410/.435. On June 23rd, he was promoted to Double-A Tennessee Smokies and hit .262/.318/.415. He hit a total of .279/.365/.445 overall during the 2016 season.

Happ was then assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox of the prestigious Arizona Fall League and hit .236/.375/.403 in 19 games. In the championship game, he went 4 for 4, hitting a home run from both sides of the plate and also had a single and a double.

According to scouting reports, Happ demonstrates balance, plus bat speed, and above-average power from both sides of the plate. With his deceptive strength, solid speed, and baserunning instincts, he has 20-20 upside (20 home runs and 20 stolen bases). He also has good plate discipline with an advanced approach that will translate into good on-base skills against Major League arms. Happ has better bat control from the left side, but his good judgment for the strike zone will allow him to get on base and tap into his power from the right side. However, he isn’t the most athletic of all second baseman. His infield actions are stiff, and his below-average running makes him limited to an outfield corner, possibly left field.

More importantly, Happ has been raking during 2017 spring training and has the interested eye of coaches, his teammates, and fans around baseball. He is now leading the Cubs with three homers and nine RBIs. He also has 14 hits, six runs, nine RBIs in 14 games (30 total at-bats) with a line of .467/.484/.867. He has been scorching hot since Friday with his family in attendance going 9 for his last 11.

“He has had a nice camp,” Maddon said of Happ recently. “I have been watching. The hitting coaches have really been impressed. He is now taking that into the games. Theo and Jed have talked about him often.”

His ETA is expected to be around late 2017 to early/middle of 2018. Though there is currently no room on the squad for Happ, with Javier Baez at second base, and a crowded outfield that consists of Almora, Heyward, Schwarber, Szczur, and Zobrist. Happ is expected to be a utility player similar to Ben Zobrist.

Stats researched from MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, and Baseball Prospectus. Check out author's Toan Igo's baseball blog here

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