Well, that didn’t take long.
For the second year in a row, the Cubs and their first-round pick quickly agreed to terms and before long, Ian Happ will be making his pro debut, likely in Eugene. The ninth overall selection out of the University of Cincinnati agreed to a $ 3 million signing bonus. The slot limit for the pick was $3,351,000, saving the Cubs $351,000.
Happ tweeted on June 14 he was Arizona bound and has reported to the Cubs complex in Mesa. The last two years, the Cubs top picks—Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber— played in the Northwest League and ended their first pro season in High A. Happ was recommended by area scout Daniel Carte.
"Ian has proved to be one of the better performers in college baseball over the past couple of seasons," said Jason McLeod, Cubs Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development. "He's a switch-hitter who hits for average and power while showing advanced plate discipline. We feel he's athletic enough to play the infield or outfield."
McLeod said he not a big power guy like Bryant or Schwarber but does show some strength and feels Happ was the best hitter in the draft, adding the Cubs trust their process and evaluation on hitters. McLeod not only cited his ability to hit for a high average and show good plate discipline, he also gave his character high marks.
The American Athletic Conference Player of the Year and a Golden Spikes semi-finalist, the 20-year-old hit .369/.492/.672 with 18 doubles, 14 homers, 44 RBI, 48 walks, and 47 runs his junior season for the Bearcats. He led the conference in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, total bases and walks.
A 2015 First-Team Academic All-American, Happ was also named a First-Team All-American by ABCA and hit .338/.463/.552 with 120 runs, 44 doubles, two triples, 25 home runs and 107 RBI in three seasons at Cincinnati. The graduate of Mt. Lebanon High School in Pennsylvania earned all-star honors twice in the Cape Cod League for the Harwich Mariners.
Happ’s best tool is his bat, as the switch-hitter is statistically better from the left side but shows the same plate discipline and ability to barrel up pitches as a right-hander. Happ’s versatility is a trait the Cubs front office desires—the ability to play multiple positions at the big league level. Happ spent his junior season in the outfield but also played second base in college and the Cubs plan to use him at both. Good speed and a decent arm bolster his ability to play the outfield.
“I don’t think I have one position as my best right now,” Happ told reporters after the draft. “I’m comfortable in the outfield. I’m comfortable at second base. I’m excited to play whatever position the Cubs want me to play. I can’t wait to see where they want me.”
Don’t be surprised if Happ gets to South Bend rather quickly and lands in Myrtle Beach for the end of the season and the playoffs. Don’t expect a rise through the ranks like Schwarber just pulled off but Happ should spend a considerable amount of 2016 in AA.