Phillies Prospect #3: J.A. Happ

J.A. Happ's future lies in the Phillies starting rotation, but he's starting the year in the Phillies bullpen. He still maintains his rookie status, but he's come up big for the Phillies before and likely will again.

Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the third round of the 2004 Draft.
Bats: L  Throws: L
Height: 6' 5"  Weight: 205 pounds
Birth Date: October 19, 1982
2008 Team(s): Lehigh Valley (24 G) / Philadelphia (8 G)
Games/Games Started: 32 G / 27 GS
School: Northwestern University
2008 Ranking: #8

Why Happ jumped to #3: After a down season in 2007, J.A. Happ proved that it was an aberration as he bounced back nicely in 2008 and pitched well down the stretch for the big league club, helping them to beat Atlanta twice in September. Happ was able to bounce between pitching in relief and starting and handled both roles well at the major league level. At Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Happ pitched well throughout the season and showed that he was ready for the assignment that the Phillies gave him at the major league level. His performance was good enough that he came into camp battling for a spot in the rotation and while he came up short, he did win a bullpen spot with the Phillies.

Repertoire: Happ generally relies on three pitches - fastball, change-up and curve - to get hitters out. His change-up has become much better over the past couple of seasons and is hard to discern from his fastball since his motion and arm speed are consistent. He drops about ten miles per hour from his fastball to his change-up, with the fastball sitting in the low-90s with good, late movement. When he needs another pitch to show hitters, Happ will roll out his slider, which isn't as good as his other pitches, but keeps hitters off balance.

Pitching Style: Happ sets up his fastball well and is getting better at not wasting pitches to put hitters away, but could be better at keeping his pitch count lower. He doesn't always pitch deep into games and tends to let his pitches sit up in the zone when he starts to wear down. Happ had trouble with his control in 2007, issuing 4.7 walks per nine innings at Triple-A, but cut that down to 3.2 walks per nine innings last season at Triple-A.

Projection: Happ is ready to pitch in the majors full-time, but the problem is finding a spot to fit him into. For now, the Phillies have made the decision to put him in the bullpen to provide another left-handed presence, but his future lies as a starter. It's kind of interesting that they preferred to put him in the bullpen rather than keeping his arm stretched out by starting every fifth day at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He has the potential to be a mid-rotation starter at the major league level, as long as he can pitch a little deeper into games than he has in the past.

Comparison: Because of the way he mixes his pitches and doesn't try to overpower hitters, Happ compares in style to Jamie Moyer. Of course, Happ has to learn the nuances of how to put hitters away and doesn't have the knowledge that Moyer does, but there is still plenty of time for him to learn.

J.A. Happ's career stats

Year/Team W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB KO WHIP OPP AVG
2004 Batavia 1 2 2.00 11 11 36.0 22 8 8 1 18 37 1.11 .185
2005 Lakewood 4 4 2.36 14 12 72.1 57 26 19 3 26 70 1.15 .213
2005 Reading 1 0 1.50 1 1 6.0 3 1 1 0 2 8 0.83 .150
2006 Clearwater 3 7 2.81 13 13 80.0 63 35 25 9 19 77 1.03 .216
2006 Reading 6 2 2.65 12 12 74.2 58 27 22 2 29 81 1.03 .214
2006 Scranton 1 0 1.50 1 1 6.0 3 1 1 1 1 4 0.67 .136
2007 Ottawa 2 6 5.02 24 24 118.1 118 74 66 12 62 117 1.52 .265
2007 Philadelphia 0 1 11.25 1 1 4.0 7 5 5 3 2 5 2.25 .368
2008 Lehigh Valley 8 7 3.60 24 23 135.0 116 58 54 14 48 151 1.22 .234
2008 Philadelphia 1 0 3.69 8 4 31.2 28 13 13 3 14 26 1.33 .233
Minor League Totals 28 28 3.34 100 97 528.0 440 230 196 42 205 545 1.22 .228
Major League Totals 1 1 4.54 9 5 35.2 35 18 18 6 16 31 1.43 .252



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