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2015 Phillies Draft Preview: Ian Happ, 2B/OF

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Someone's gotta say it: The Phillies have been Happless for too long.

Not Ian Happ
Not Ian Happ
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Ian Happ is a 6'0" 205 lb SS/LF/CF, who is defensively iffy enough at all 3 spots to be projected by some as a 2B in the pros. He plays for the University of Cincinnati. He's a switch hitter with above average hit and power. He also shows plus speed, though he's been more above average for the last year. There are a lot of potentially special tools and a lot of questions about how potentially special those tools may be. Happ went undrafted out of High School and, essentially, came out of nowhere in the 2013 College season to start showing up on radars.

The top tool is Happ's hit tool. He may be a switch hitter, but there really isn't an apparent weakness from either side of the dish. He looks like a natural hitter with a short stroke, allowing him to wait a fraction longer before committing to his swing. This has allowed him to draw a ton of walks (his K:BB ratio is essentially 1:1). He can get tripped up by breaking balls, so there is some concern that as a Pro, facing better breaking stuff he may struggle even more. Frankly, that risk exists for every amateur hitter and I see the kind of contact tools that should allow him to hit at an above average clip or better as a pro. I see plus potential with his hit tool. The video below (courtesy Fangraphs/On Deck Digital) is from the 2014 Cape Cod League. There's a lot to look at, but what I like is his quiet setup - tiny step, lean back and rip it and the short path he takes to the ball. He has a slightly bigger step as a Lefty, but barely noticeable and essentially the same short stroke.

Now, along with his hit tool, Happ also has average or slightly above average power potential. That will play well up the middle, but if he has to move to a corner, it would be fairly pedestrian. You can see from those clips the loft he generates and Fangraph's Matt Rose studied video of Happ from the Cape last summer and found the following:

Type of Contact
In Play: 104
Flyball: 29%
Groundball: 39%
Line Drive: 26%
Pop Up: 6%

Quality of Contact
Hard: 49%
Medium: 36%
Soft: 19%

A 26% Line Drive rate is pretty special if he can maintain that as a Pro his hit tool and power could both play up. The other important note about those numbers is the hard contact. There have been reports of scouts questioning whether Happ's power will play with wood bats. The CCL is a wood bat league. His stats actually show a boost in power with the wood bats. Oddly though his plate discipline slipped in the Cape both years he played, as his K:BB ration was more ~2:1 (20% K and 10% BB rates roughly; compared with rates more like 15% in both in his College season). The rates would be manageable for his profile, but does add a little red flag to things. I think you could be looking at a guy who flirts with a .300 AVG every season, a .330-ish OBP and 15-20 HR. That's a pretty good bat.

The problem is ultimately where his glove goes. He may be a Second Baseman or Center Fielder. In both roles his bat would play well above average for the position. Problem is he may be too slow for Center and he's not a natural at Second, though he has the raw tools for the role, he needs more experience and hasn't play Second enough in College for Scouts to comfortable read if he can stick. He's played Left and Right Fields, but his Power would be more ordinary to below average in those spots. He's got the tools for Third and his bat would play fairly well there, but again there's no experience to see if he has the instincts and reflexes for the hot corner. This type of uncertainty could make him a Top 10 pick or a sandwich round pick depending upon hos scouts see him as a defender.

Happ is kind of this draft's Rorschach test. You can see a power hitting Second baseman or a weak hitting corner OF. A guy with great plate discipline or a guy who can recognize and adjust to off speed pitches. Personally, I think the tools and talent are there for a guy to become an above-average to plus hitter, but the Defensive uncertainty gives me pause and his plate discipline in the Cape adds to the concern that if he gets pushed to a corner and carries those rates, he may be more like a .280/.310 AVG/OBP which is kind of pedestrian.