Grading The Top Ten: J.A. Happ

With a full bunch of left-handed pitching prospects in the organization, it's easy to fall between the cracks. J.A. Happ is good enough though to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the other top southpaws in the organization.

J.A. Happ deserves so much better. In his nine starts this season, the Threshers offense has provided just 23 runs. Eight of those runs have come in his two no-decisions and another six in his two wins. That means that in the five games that he's lost, Happ has gotten just a total of nine runs from the Clearwater hitters. That's how a guy with a 2.45 ERA winds up with a 205 record on the season. It's pretty remarkable, especially when you consider that Clearwater, before a recent slide, was playing pretty well. They're still just three games under the .500 mark on the season.

For Happ, he just continues to go to the mound and pitch. He threw eight shutout innings against Brevard County on May 10 and has gone at least five innings in each of his starts this season. Opponents are hitting just .208 against him and his control has been excellent - 12 walks and 53 strikeouts in 55 innings - so things have to turn around for the left-hander at some point.

While Happ's numbers have been excellent, he is still caught somewhat in the trap of the multiple lefties syndrome in the organization. He does still need more time at Clearwater - although likely not much - but the logjam of lefties at AA Reading could keep him with the Threshers a little longer than might be necessary. After all, the R-Phils already have three left-handers in their rotation.

It's likely that by the end of the season, Happ will be at AA. He pitched one game there last season and threw six strong innings. Many scouts believe he could handle AA hitters now, but the Phillies are very cautious with their pitchers and generally don't promote too quickly. It's possible that after the trade deadline (July 31) the Phillies will have moved at least one of their left-handers in a deal and as the pitching staffs are adjusted, Happ will be moving up to Reading. Especially since Daniel Haigwood and Giovany Gonzalez are both considered just about ready to be advanced to AAA.

Happ's slider is becoming an above average pitch for him and will help him greatly at the higher levels. For now, it's just a matter of patience and waiting for the call to the next level.

Early Grade - A: Happ is doing everything the Phillies want him to do. The fact that he's not outwardly disgusted by the lack of run support is a great sign and speaks to the attitude of the 23 year old lefty. While many players struggle a little when they first reach the AA level, Happ will likely breeze right through. In a more aggressive organization, he would already be at AA, proving that he can handle the competition there.

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