Phillies Prospect #8: J.A. Happ

Last year, J.A. Happ was our choice to be the top prospect in the Phillies organization. A disastrous season at Triple-A Ottawa dropped him in the rankings, but he's still a top prospect.

Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the 3rd round of the 2004 Draft.

B:T:/ Height:  6' 5"   Weight: 205 lbs

Birth Date: October 19, 1982

2007 Team: Ottawa (24 g), Philadelphia (1 g)

Games/Games Started in 2007: 25 g / 25 gs

School: Northwestern University

Last Year's Ranking: 1

Why he dropped from #1 to #8: A lot of the struggles that J.A. Happ went through in 2007 can be attributed to an injury that he spent all fall rehabbing. Phillies assistant GM Mike Arbuckle told Philly Baseball News that Happ is now 100% and he expects a major turn around for the left-hander in 2008. Some of the struggles can also be attributed to pitching in Ottawa, where many of the Phillies pitchers struggled through last season and posted sub-par numbers. Still, when a guy puts up the kind of numbers that Happ did earlier in his career and then fumbles his way through to a 5.02 ERA at Triple-A, there has to be at least some concern. Odds are that he'll bounce back and we'll see more of the old J.A. Happ that was impressive enough to lead our rankings last season.

Repertoire: Happ's fastball will get up there in the low 90s and has some late movement that makes it tough to get good wood on. One of the things that people didn't realize last season was just how much better Happ's change-up had gotten and how well he can use it to set up his fastball. The change-up is about 10 mph slower than his fastball and he's able to replicate his fastball delivery well so that hitters are often fooled by the pitch. His curve is a solid pitch for him, but his slider hasn't progressed as well as many thought that it would and he can't always throw it consistently. Probably the major thing that will hold back Happ is his ability to pitch deep into games, because when he gets tired, all of his pitches tend to float in flat and he can quickly get into trouble. Part of his off-season work included work to make himself a little stronger and give himself more durability.

Pitching Style: Coming into last season, Happ averaged just 2.7 walks per nine innings, but that number exploded to 4.7 walks per nine last season at Ottawa., which can be blamed a lot on the elbow problems that he pitched through for much of the season. Generally, Happ has good command of his pitches and keeps them down in the zone. He routinely throws all of his pitches for strikes and isn't afraid to pitch inside to hitters.

Projection: Happ now has a full season at Triple-A under his belt and has shown the stuff to be a number two type starter in the majors before all is said and done, even with his failing numbers from last season. It would be somewhat surprising if Happ didn't reach the majors this season, either because of an injury to one of the starters or because the Phillies believe he would be a better option than someone else in their rotation. The Phillies gave him a pretty quick exit out of camp this spring, but that was pretty much by design, since they wanted him to return to Triple-A to gain confidence and make sure that he's healthy. Look for a return to form for Happ as a member of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs rotation.

ETA: As soon as the Phillies are sure that he's past his injury and he gets a few good starts under his belt, Happ will be ready to pitch at the Major League level and likely for more than just one start the next time around.

Comparison: Happ's style and demeanor compare very favorably to that of Jamie Moyer. Neither pitcher throws very hard, but both know how to move their pitches through the lower portions of the strike zone and use that to get ground balls. Both are also poised competitors who never get too high or too low.

J.A. Happ's career stats

2004 Batavia 1 2 2.02 0 11 11 35.2 22 8 8 1 18 37 1.12 .185
2005 Lakewood 4 4 2.36 0 14 12 72.1 57 26 19 3 26 70 1.15 .213
2005 Reading 1 0 1.50 0 1 1 6.0 3 1 1 0 2 8 0.83 .150
2006 Clearwater 3 7 2.81 0 13 13 80.0 63 35 25 9 19 77 1.03 .216
2006 Reading 6 2 2.65 0 12 12 74.2 58 27 22 2 29 81 1.17 .214
2006 Scranton 1 0 1.50 0 1 1 6.0 3 1 1 1 1 4 0.67 .136
2007 Ottawa 4 6 5.02 0 24 24 118.1 118 74 66 12 62 117 1.52 .265
2007 Philadelphia 0 1 11.25 0 1 1 4.0 7 5 5 3 2 5 2.25 .368
Minor League Totals 20 21 3.25 0 76 74 393.0 324 172 142 28 157 394 1.22 .226

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