Ian Happ Promoted – What to Expect at South Bend

News broke early Thursday evening that Ian Happ, the Cubs top draft pick in 2015, was being promoted to low-A South Bend. Happ is expected to arrive on Friday, and whether he will be in the lineup tomorrow night is up in the air.

Happ is arriving from the Cubs’ short-season A team, the Eugene Emeralds, where he played center field and designated hitter. He hit .283 with a very solid .408 OBP to go along with 4 HRs and 11 RBIs in 29 games. Happ hit all his homers in the first week and was carefully pitched to the rest of his tenure. In addition, Happ showed he has good speed stealing 9 bases and was never caught.

A versatile fielder who played second and third in addition to outfield at the University of Cincinnati, Happ will play outfield for the South Bend Cubs. Rumor has it the Cubs will work on his second base skills this fall at instructs. When drafted, Happ said:

“I don’t think I have one position as my best right now. 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.”

Cubs Director of Scouting Jason McLeod is really high on Happ:

“I don’t see him being Kris Bryant or Kyle Schwarber in terms of the home-run power, but at the same time, this is a guy who’s pretty physical. We definitely feel that there is strength there, and that he is a guy that’s going to be able to run into 15 home runs-plus, hitting for a high average. As you know, we’re really big on guys that control the strike zone and show that plate discipline. We trust our process and our evaluation on hitters, especially with college hitters.

All the workup that we did on him, we really feel that he was one of the top – if not the best – college hitter in this year’s draft. We feel really confident with that, and especially confident with who he is as a person. We feel he’s going to fit right in, along the lines of Kris Bryant and Kyle and some of the other guys that we’ve taken.”

Right now, South Bend is hovering around .500, three and a half games out of first place, a distinct change from the first half. Happ will be an immediate help and his calling card in South Bend will be his switch-hitting power bat, hopefully placed near the top of the order. At Eugene, Happ was pretty streaky as he was pitched around quite often but I don’t see that happening in South Bend. He will still be able to get on base via the walk, though, as he had more walks than hits until early this week.

happ 82 2015What I Expect at South Bend

Happ will be a much better hitter at South Bend, where he will be surrounded by solid hitters in the lineup. I see him hitting third behind Gleyber Torres and in front of the hot-handed Yasiel Balaguert. Considering the amount Torres and new leadoff hitter Jeffrey Baez are on base, Happ should see a lot of pitches to hit. The last thing a pitcher in the Midwest League wants to do is to pitch to Balaguert right now.

Once Eloy Jimenez returned to hit behind him at Eugene, Happ went on a tear hitting .366 in his last ten games. At South Bend, I expect that to continue. In fact, because he will protected a little more, the power profile could debut early and often.

I would like to see his power profile play a little better at this level just because he will be facing better pitchers who are more around the plate than short-season A ball. In fact, the higher he goes in the system, the better he will likely hit.

At just 20 years old, Happ is much younger than the Cubs’ last two top picks in Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. He is going to take a little bit more time to get some seasoning but next year he should start at high-A Myrtle Beach and move quickly to AA Tennessee. However, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him at Myrtle Beach (which is already in the playoffs) quickly this year if South Bend falls out of the playoff picture in mid-August. Theo likes to have the top picks get a taste of playoff baseball early in the low minors.

The first year in a player’s pro career is all about adjusting and developing routines to playing baseball all the time. Happ is doing that and now he will get to do it in South Bend for a short time.

MiLB.TV just became must-see for tomorrow night.


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