Post-Hype Sleeper: Ian Happ: Will He Finally Realize His Potential Or Disappoint Once Again?

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Once upon a time the Cubs’ Ian Happ was considered among the top prospects in the game, routinely finding his way onto Top 100 lists. Unfortunately the results never quite matched the expectations, leaving Happ to spend significant time back at Triple-A in 2019. With the Cubs trying to cut their payroll in 2020 and with Happ producing decently when given the opportunity in ’19, he appears primed to get another opportunity. The question is, can he make the most of it?

First the numbers over 58 games in the Majors in ’19:

140 At Bats
.264 Batting Average (37 Hits)
11 Home Runs
30 RBI
25 Runs
2 Stolen Bases
.333 On Base Percentage
.564 Slugging Percentage
.286 Batting Average on Balls in Play

There’s a lot to unpack from those numbers, and while it seems promising when you start to dive into the underlying metrics it’s hard to get excited.

Strikeout Concerns

Over the course of his MLB career Happ owns a 15.5% SwStr%, and his 14.7% mark in the Majors last season (15.7% at Triple-A) doesn’t help to improve the outlook. If that isn’t enough, look at his Whiff% from last season:

  • Hard – 14.39%
  • Breaking – 14.62%
  • Offspeed – 20.62%

Power Concerns

His performance in the Majors would make you think that he’d unlocked his potential, but his HR/FB tells you that it is completely unsustainable:

  • Triple-A – 19.3%
  • Majors – 26.2%

Couple that with a rather mediocre Exit Velocity of 89.3 mph (155th of 406 players with at least 100 PA) and it’s easy to anticipate a regression.

Little BABIP Upside

Happ’s BABIP was rather poor last season and the expected drop in power just makes it that much worse. With a 34.3% Hard% (35.2% for his MLB career) and 41.6% flyball rate, there’s little reason to expect much of an improvement.

Conclusion

While Happ can steal a few bases, he also doesn’t bring elite power and the potential for him to hit .250 or worse is very real. While he could open the year as the team’s starting center fielder, he is unlikely to finish there. While the value on draft day appears to be there, he’s not an ideal sleeper to target.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Savant

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 preseason rankings:

PositionLast Updated
Catchers02/10/20
First Basemen02/13/20
Second Basemen02/18/20
Third Basemen02/21/20
Shortstops02/24/20
Outfielders03/06/20
Starting Pitchers03/09/20
Relief Pitchers03/03/20

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