The Chicago Cubs promoted Ian Happ over the weekend, calling up one of their top prospects to the big leagues and giving him a first taste of The Show. Life is good early on for the second baseman-turned-outfielder, as he has homered twice and collected four hits in his first ten at-bats in the big leagues through Tuesday night.
The University of Cincinnati product is particularly well-suited for the highest level with an exceptionally advanced approach at the plate and a sweet, smooth swing from both sides of the plate, with enough power to survive with some over-the-fence talent and the ability to handle the bat that he will do far more gap-to-gap based on situation.
Ian Happ MLB debut: what to expect
An advanced hitter who has the ability to hit for both average and power both right-handed and left-handed, Ian Happ was the Chicago Cubs‘ second-best prospect (behind Eloy Jimenez) at the time of his call-up a few days ago. The second baseman-slash-outfielder figures to have his versatility tested in Chicago, and may wind up playing more outfield than infield, at least immediately. All long term signs pointing defensively to him being a better left fielder than a middle infielder, and he’ll have to work not to be a below-average defender at second base. He’s stiff with average range there; his arm strength and accuracy are fine, but neither is exceptional or ideal for an everyday middle infield role. Then again, with the bat he has, Happ should eventually fit just fine in left field and be functional there.
Offensively, Ian Happ is a sight to see. He’s balanced from both sides of the plate, with enough raw power and good barrel skills on each side to be a threat regardless of matchup. His calling card (before reaching the big leagues, at least) had been homering from each side of the plate in the Arizona Fall League championship game in 2016, and that’s more or less indicative of his broader abilities: a compact swing that produces great line drive and fly ball leverage, Happ should soon hit 20+ home runs in the big leagues. Further, his speed is such that he’s got a chance to be a true 20-20 guy; it is somewhat rare and memorable when you find one who has that unique pairing of tools.
I think he’s got a good shot to hit for average in addition to power; his barrel skills are good and even though his wheelhouse is the pull side whether hitting righty or lefty, he has enough situational awareness to hit line drives to all fields. That’ll help him adjust to big league pitching, as he probably won’t hit two home runs every three games for the rest of his career, but Happ’s hot start is a good indication of where he’s at as a hitter: the over-the-fence power is always going to be there. So long as he can find a permanent home out in left field one day, or improve enough in the middle infield to provide defensive flexibility in the mold of a guy like Ben Zobrist, Happ is going to be quite the addition to a good Cubs roster.
Below, we’ve got a more than a dozen Ian Happ at-bats taken from his Arizona Fall League time last October and November; if you’re interested in seeing an open-faced (third and first base line) view of his mechanics at the plate, enjoy it all below.
Ian Happ video
Here’s our first Ian Happ video from the AFL:
And our second:
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Ian Happ GIFs
In addition to video of the Chicago Cubs prospect, we’ve broken out a few Ian Happ GIFs for those looking for something more immediately shareable to Twitter, etc.
Have at it:
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In this Chicago Cubs / Ian Happ analysis: