Name: Ian Happ
Height/Weight: 5’11’’, 205
I believe if you focus on a draft every year there is a guy you watch and follow who you end up liking more than the rest of the industry. He is your guy, the player you go on constantly about. Over the past few years, my guys have been Stephen Piscotty in 2012, Austin Wilson in 2013 and Bradley Zimmer in 2014. This year, my guy is another possible outfielder in Ian Happ.
The University of Cincinnati is not known as a baseball powerhouse. As a matter of fact, it has never produced a first or second round pick and only six major league players. The most famous alums are Kevin Youkilis and Josh Harrison.
It has been a rough year for the Bearcats, who have a record of 15-39. The year is over for Happ and the Bearcats after a loss to Memphis in their conference tournament.
As bad of a year as it has been for the university, it has been equally good for Happ. There are multiple reasons he would have had as an excuse for a down year. He had sports hernia surgery before the year. The Cincinnati lineup has not been very good this year. Happ was intentionally walked 14 times. His slugging percentage is higher than the OPS of all but two of his teammates. Teams went out of their way to avoid Happ when they could this year. It was clear teams decided that anyone but Happ would beat them.
Despite all of that, Happ's numbers are excellent. His slash line is .369/.490/.677 with 14 homeruns, 18 doubles, 1.04 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .308 ISO. He walks a lot, but also strikes out a fair amount, which is not uncommon for patient hitters with a good eye for the strike-zone.
If I was grading out Happ’s skills, I would be willing bet on future tools of 60 hit and eye along with 55 speed and power. He does a bit of everything offensively. He is a switch-hitter, as well, but is definitely better from the left side than the right. His hit tool is the best current hit tool in this class and part of the reason I expect it to grow so much is that he combines it with his eye and understanding of the strike-zone to be a complete hitter. I have seen guys with great hit tools who are still too much of a free swinger to find consistent success.
There are two negatives when it comes to Happ. First is the fact that he has an undefined position. He played some second base in college but was never great at it. His arm and footwork are plenty good and I think he should be given every chance to stick there, as the bat will really play up there. I think the arm is good enough for third if second does not work and the ultimate fallback is the outfield. He is my third-ranked college bat mostly because of the offensive potential. The other negative is he doesn’t look like a great baseball player at 5’11’’ and 205 pounds. He is surprisingly fast, but teams will write him off as an average athlete or even say he has a bad body. This is simply not true.
The comparison for Happ is that of Ben Zobrist. They are both switching hitting second basemen/outfielders. Zobrist is four inches taller but only five pounds heavier. Zobrist has made a career of playing multiple spots, and being a jack of all trades, master of none. He is the Swiss Army knife of baseball. Zobrist has some power, but it’s more like 15-20 homerun power. He can steal some bases but won’t ever be a top-five guy. The other big thing he excelled at was getting on base. He hit well enough and walked a lot which made him a constant headache to other teams. Zobrist is a better defender than I think Happ would be. The offensive skill-set is certainly similar to what I think Happ can be at peak.
Before the year began, Happ was not in most top-10s. He snuck in as players got hurt but as other guys have risen, he has fallen I think mostly due to level of competition and how bad the team around him as played. It doesn’t help when you play on the worst team, record-wise, in a lesser conference.
He is still a top-10 talent to me as nothing has changed or evolved with him. Happ does a lot of things very well. If I was sure he could stick up the middle or even at third, he would be more valuable. I still think the bat will play in the outfield; it could play anywhere. Happ’s loss will be some team’s gain this June if he slides. He no longer looks like he will go in the top-10, but I would not be surprised in the slightest if he ends up being one of the top-10 players in this class down the road.