Sticking to a script that’s worked very well for them in the last two years, the Chicago Cubs tonight made University of Cincinnati switch hitter Ian Happ their first round pick (9th overall).
Happ, who has played middle infield and in the outfield for the Bearcats, is considered one of the best bats in the draft, and it’s the bat that gets him selected this high. As a junior, Happ hit .369/.492/.672 over 56 games. He struck out 49 times, which isn’t too bad, and he walked 49 times … which, hey, those are the same number. That’s excellent!
Happ’s list of accomplishments is almost unthinkably long on his bio, and it includes an appearance as a Golden Spikes semifinalist this year despite playing on a rough UC team (15-41).
Happ, 20, has played in the Cape Cod League, and has been heavily scouted in his amateur career. He’s said to be a plus makeup guy. The risk here is very low, and, as we’ve seen when the Cubs take a college bat high in the draft, there’s usually a lot of upside, too.
“Ian has proved to be one of the better performers in college baseball over the past couple of seasons,” said Jason McLeod, Cubs Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development, in a release. “He’s a switch-hitter who hits for average and power while showing advanced plate discipline. We feel he’s athletic enough to play the infield or outfield.”
There’s no need to pin down a position just yet on Happ, which, again, is why I spotlighted the bat in the intro.
More from the Cubs’ release on the selection:
Happ, 20, this season batted .369 (73-for-198) with 47 runs scored, 18 doubles, 14 home runs and 44 RBI for the Bearcats. He walked 49 times to contribute to a .492 on-base percentage, and his .672 slugging mark gave him a 1.164 OPS. Happ led the American Athletic Conference (AAC) in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and tied for the lead in walks. Additionally, he led his team in runs, hits, doubles, home runs and RBI.
Named a semi-finalist for the 2015 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award, the switch-hitting Happ was recognized as the 2015 AAC Player of the Year, named First Team Academic All-American, Second Team Louisville Slugger All-American and was a unanimous first team All-Conference member as voted on by the league’s head coaches.
The six-foot, 205-pound Happ has batted .338 (194-for-574) with 120 runs, 44 doubles, two triples, 25 home runs and 107 RBI in three seasons at Cincinnati. He has drawn more walks (128) than strikeouts (116), contributing to a .463 on-base percentage, and along with his .552 slugging mark has recorded a 1.015 OPS through his junior season. His walks and on-base percentage both rank third-most in school history while his 56 stolen bases are fifth. Happ has seen time in both right field and center field, as well as second base, third base and shortstop.
In his sophomore 2014 season, Happ led Cincinnati with a .443 on-base percentage, .497 slugging percentage, 32 walks and 19 stolen bases while he batted .322 (55-for-171) with 13 doubles, one triple, five homers and 27 RBI. He earned First Team All-AAC honors and was a preseason first team All-America selection by Baseball America.
Happ is listed as one of the top three pure college hitters in this year’s Draft by Baseball America.
Happ is a two-time Cape Cod League All-Star, having played for the Harwich Mariners in 2013-14. He batted .329 (49-for-149) with 12 doubles, one triple, four home runs, 26 RBI and a .936 OPS in 2014 following a 2013 summer in which he hit .293 (43-for-147) with seven doubles, two triples, five homers and 22 RBI.
A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Happ graduated from Mt. Lebanon (Pa.) high school after he produced a .449 career batting average with 33 doubles, five triples, 12 home runs and 65 RBI in four seasons.
I’ll have much more on the Cubs’ first round pick in the coming days and weeks. I wouldn’t expect him to be a big under slot guy, but we’ll see. It’s conceivable that he would have fallen a bit further if the Cubs hadn’t taken him, and maybe that’s the leverage they could have used. Either way, hopefully the Cubs can get him signed reasonably quickly and start him on his professional path before too long. Happ doesn’t even turn 21 until August, for what that’s worth.
For now, back to the live blog. Cubs pick again in the second round at number 47 overall.