Post-Hype Breakout Potential: Will 2019 Be The Year Of Ian Happ? It Seems Like A Good “Gamble”…

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Ian Happ is one of those players that arrived with significant hype, though has generally struggled to produce.  Last season fantasy owners kept waiting…  And waiting…  And waiting…  The turnaround never came, and while his versatility kept him in the lineup (arguably more than it should’ve) the results were uninspiring:

387 At Bats
.233 Batting Average (90 Hits)
15 Home Runs
44 RBI
56 Runs
8 Stolen Bases
.353 On Base Percentage
.408 Slugging Percentage
.362 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Sure he hit the ball hard (38.3% Hard%) and continued to show his power potential (17.9% HR/FB), but he needs to figure out how to make consistent contact in order to tap into his skills.  It’s not his eye, with a 24.7% O-Swing% leading to a 15.2% walk rate, but his ability to make consistent contact (Whiff%):

  • Hard – 15.31%
  • Breaking Balls – 17.13%
  • Offspeed – 18.87%

Obviously that brings significant concerns, but he actually improved against both breaking balls (26.30% to 17.13%) and offspeed pitches (22.18% to 18.87%) from his rookie season.  That’s a strong sign and you would think that he’d be able to post a better number against fastballs.  That’s the real key to his struggles, having hit .228 against fourseam fastballs.  That shouldn’t be the problem and it’s something that’s easy to envision him improving (though we unfortunately can’t say it’s a given, with a .235 average against the pitch in ’17).

You also could argue that he’s a bit too patient, with his propensity to work deep counts being the reason why his strikeout rate was so poor (36.1% in ’18).  That too is a fair point, and with more experience could come a little bit more aggressiveness.  Sure it would come at a cost of his walk rate, but the overall production could improve significantly.

Happ has some obvious power, with 39 HR and 80 total extra base hits over 751 AB in the Majors.  He showed even more upside in the first half of ’18, with a 19.6% HR/FB (before it fell to 14.3% in the second half).  Having hit 25 HR in ’17 and being on a similar pace prior to the All-Star Break (11 HR over 234 AB), it’s a safe number to expect assuming the AB are there.

Not a blazer, he also has proven capable of swiping 10-12 bases over a full season as well.  So we have a player with eligibility at 2B/OF who seems safe to project as a 25/10 player (assuming he continues to get AB).  He hits the ball hard and if he can get the strikeout rate in check, something there are signs of, he could truly breakout in 2019.  While he is a bit of a gamble, there’s more than enough upside to “roll the dice” and make the investment as long as the price is reasonable.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out all of our 2019 projections:

Date Posted
Dylan Bundy10/22/18
Foltynewicz, Mike10/09/18
Gibson, Kyle10/29/18
Hoskins, Rhys10/16/18
Hosmer, Eric11/05/18
Wheeler, Zack10/02/18

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