Tag Archives: Ian Happ

Hunter Pence, Ian Happ would be perfect fits for Phillies bench at trade deadline

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Hunter Pence has refreshed his career at home in Texas

The majority of chatter and rumor involving the Philadelphia Phillies as the 2019 trade deadline approaches has revolved around pitching, and for good reason. The Phillies are probably going to need to find a pair of new starting pitchers in order to remain in contention for a postseason spot this year, and that remains the case after the signing of lefty Drew Smyly.

However, there is no doubt that the club could also use better options coming off their bench. There are a pair of hitters rumored to be available who could help bolster those bench options for manager Gabe Kapler.
One of those is a name and face familiar to many Phillies fans, corner outfielder Hunter Pence. After completely reworking his swing and rededicating himself to a new training regimen, Pence stunned many across baseball by emerging as an AL All-Star this season at age 36.
Pence, who plays for the Texas Rangers, is now the subject of a new documentary “The Pence Method“, which will air for the first time tonight (Saturday) on FS1 at 9;00 PM.
Jeff Wilson for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram interviewed Pence recently, and quoted him on how it felt to know that teams were interested once they learned of the changes he was making.
There was a lot of doubt. I lost my job. I wasn’t playing every day, and it hits your confidence. I wasn’t necessarily doing great right away. It took a lot of failing to really learn the swing change. When you’re going through that process, and when I heard that at the winter meetings at lot of general managers were interested, it was tears of joy. I felt super grateful and honored. It was like a light at the end of the tunnel.
Pence, who has earned more than $120 million over a 12-year big-league career which included a stop in Philadelphia from July 2011 through July 2012, would eventually accept a $2 million dollar, one-year deal with the Rangers. He has far outperformed that contract.
Over 58 games and 228 plate appearances, Pence is slashing .291/.351/.587 with 15  home runs, 30 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs and 45 runs scored. He has an outstanding .938 OPS, and while used mostly as a DH (30 games), Pence has also played 16 games in left field and five in right.
Coming back to Philly, Pence would become a right-handed bat off the bench as a pinch-hitter while also providing occasional innings as a corner outfielder.
Texas was in the AL Wildcard race throughout the season’s first half. But having lost 11 of their last 15, the Rangers now find themselves 5.5 games in back of the second Wildcard spot and nine games out in the AL West Division. At some point soon they are going to have to do the right thing and sell on what has basically been a rental player in Pence.
Getting a big price in return will not be easy, despite his production. But any contender could use a player with the energy, dedication and skills of a Hunter Pence. The Phillies especially so, if a trade match can be found.
Perhaps the Rangers would take a flyer on someone like Nick Pivetta, just bumped to the bullpen by the Phillies in favor of newcomer Drew Smyly, for their rotation?

MINOR LEAGUE UTILITY PLAYER COULD ALSO HELP

Ian Happ appeared as a utility player in each of the last two seasons with the Cubs, but has been at Triple-A all of this year. (Ian D’Andrea)
The other interesting available name is that of Ian Happ, currently playing at Triple-A Iowa in the Chicago Cubs system. Happ is a 24-year-old (he turns 25 next month) who appeared with the Cubs as a utility player in each of the last two seasons, but has not been called up yet in 2019.
Across the outfield, Happ appeared in 117 games in center, 88 in left and 38 in right field. On the infield he played in 46 games at second base, 24 at third base and saw action at first base for a pair of games.
This year at Iowa, Happ has split his time between center field (76) and second base (19) while also appearing twice in left field. He has produced 16 homers, 34 extra-base hits, 52 RBIs and 63 runs scored while also stealing nine bags.
The Cubs might actually be a fit for someone like either Cesar Hernandez or Maikel Franco. A straight-up swap of Happ for Hernandez would allow the Phillies to put Scott Kingery at second base on an everyday basis, with Happ taking over the center field depth spot and spelling almost anyone at any other position as well.
This is a deal that could potentially expand to see the Phillies go after Cubs backup catcher Victor Caratini as their own new backup behind the plate to replace Andrew Knapp, who has appeared over-matched for the most part. With the Cubs recent signing of Martin Maldonado and the anticipated return next week of two-time NL All-Star Willson Contreras, general manager Jed Hoyer may be inclined to swap both Happ and Caratini if the right pieces can be found in return.
Sure, let’s keep the focus on the starting rotation, where it belongs. But if Phillies general manager Matt Klentak doesn’t also have his eye on making improvements to the club’s bench, it could eventually sink the team down the stretch. Pence and Happ would upgrade the Phillies depth for the 2019 playoff push.

Ian Happ Shines in AFL Fall Stars Game

The Chicago Cubs have experienced quite the year in 2016. The big league club won the World Series for the first time since 1908, ending the ‘Curse of the Billy Goat’ and freeing Steve Bartman from exile.
There were many individual accolades for the players in the organization as well. Ben Zobrist was the World Series MVP, while Javier Baez and Jon Lester shared the NLCS Most Valuable Player honors.
Kris Bryant was named as the National League Most Valuable Player. Bryant also won the Hank Aaron Award as the top all-around hitter in the National League.
Right fielder Jason Heyward won a National League Gold Glove Award, as did first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
Rizzo was further honored as the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at first base, and he also won a Silver Slugger Award.
Kyle Hendricks was honored by his peers with the Players Choice Award as Outstanding National League Pitcher.

HAPP TAKES OVER THE AFL TITLE GAME

Tremendous performances didn’t end at the big league level. On Thursday night, Cubs prospect Ian Happ led the Mesa Solar Sox to the Arizona Fall League championship, homering twice in a 6-1 win over the host Surprise Saguaros.
Happ went 4-4 in the game, with the versatile switch-hitter’s two home runs coming from each side of the plate.
“First time in my whole life I’ve done that from both sides,” said Happ per MLB.com’s Mike Rosenbaum“I’m normally hacking when I hit from the left side and then go righty, but that was awesome.”

SCOUTING REPORTS ON HAPP

MLB Pipeline ranks Happ, the ninth overall pick in the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Cincinnati, as the top prospect in the Cubs farm system.
Happ is also ranked as the 21st best prospect in all of baseball. His MLB scouting report reads as follows:
“There isn’t much that Happ can’t do offensively. A switch-hitter, he exhibits a quick stroke and good balance from both sides of the plate, and he owns deceptive strength and solid speed. Happ should post high batting averages and on-base percentages, and he has the upside of a 20-20 player.
Happ is a good athlete with a strong arm, and Chicago will try to maximize his value by playing him at second base in 2016 after he spent instructional league there. He played mostly second base as a college freshman, but he lacked smooth infield actions and shifted to the outfield, and he also saw action at all three outfield spots in his pro debut. As with Schwarber, the Cubs will have to balance expediting Happ’s impact bat to the big leagues with developing him at a more challenging position.”
Happ turned 22-years old back in August. He split the 2016 season evenly between High-A Myrtle Beach and AAA Tennessee.
Combined between the two stops, the Pittsburgh, PA native hit for a .279/.365/.445 slash line with 15 homers, 30 doubles, 73 RBI, 72 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 567 plate appearances over 134 games.
Happ’s versatility has demonstrated with solid showings at both second base and in left field. He played in 92 games at the keystone in 2016 and another 13 out in left.
“He’s a special hitter as he showed today, and the fact that he’s been able to step in and play left field for us the last couple days was good to see — he made a great play out there today,” said Ryan Christenson, Happ’s fall league manager at Mesa.
In looking to the future, the Cubs will surely find a place for him when he is fully ready. The team already has Baez, who is about to turn 24 years old, at second base. 24-year old Jorge Solerand 22-year old Albert Almora probably have left and center fields tied up in the short-term.
There is an old adage that these things tend to work themselves out. Trades and injuries sometimes open a path. Sometimes a player simply outperforms another.
Happ will open the 2017 season with a trip to spring training, and will likely begin the year at AAA Iowa, where he will hone his game while the Cubs try to make a final determination on his best regular position.
One thing appears certain. Whenever Ian Happ is ready, the world champion Chicago Cubs will make a place for him. Just one more jewel in a treasure chest of embarrassing riches for the organization.

MLB Draft 2015: Phillies Need Bats

Sometime around 8:00pm tonight, the Phillies will make the 10th overall selection in the 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft. 
Having acquired a number of solid arms in recent trades, and developed a couple more through their system, the club should be focused on adding a sweet-swinging hitter with this year’s top selection.
In two previous pieces leading up to the draft, I’ve advocated the club selecting a college outfielder and a high school outfielder.
If we eliminate the three highly-considered shortstop prospects, and the next 3-4 highest rated players on most boards, I have come up with a trio of hitters (including my previously suggested pair) that I think would make fine choices.

KYLE TUCKERTucker
Tucker is a 6’1, 180 pound outfielder who hits left-handed but throws righty. The brother of Astros outfielder Preston Tucker, he is considered at least his brother’s equal as a hitter, but is even more athletic overall. His lefty stroke has been described as “smooth” and “easy”, and I see him as the leading contender for the Phillies pick.



IAN HAPPHapp
A 6’0, 205 pound switch-hitter who looks like he will be an outfielder, but has 2nd base experience in his past. He conceivably could at least be given a chance to play the Keystone until he shows that he can’t handle it. Happ will be the first-ever University of Cincinnati Bearcats player selected in the first round. He is widely considered as one of the 2-3 best college bats in this year’s draft class, and has developing power. I really like this kid.




ANDREW BENINTENDIBenintendi
At 5’10 and 180 pounds, the pure lefty bat is the smallest of my personal trio here, but there is nothing small about his bat. Dominating with his power-speed combo while in the SEC with Arkansas this year, he is a fast-riser on most draft boards.


The Phillies “brain trust” of team president Pat Gillick, general manager Ruben Amaro, and scouting director Johnny Almaraz are all surely going to be the main players in the club’s draft war room this evening, and it will be their pick to make. At this point as fans, there is no choice but to hope they get it right.
It’s way too soon to tell how the last two high picks, J.P. Crawford in 2013 and Aaron Nola a year ago, are going to pan out. But those players are now the Phillies top two prospects on all evaluators rankings. 
If the player selected here at #10 becomes a Top 3 prospect by this time next year, this will be considered a win.

Phillies Should Go For Ian Happ in 2015 MLB Amateur Draft

In the 3rd round of the MLB 2004 Amateur Draft, the Phillies selected a lefthanded pitcher out of Northwestern University by the name of J.A. Happ
In the upcoming 2015 MLB Draft, it might be time to give yet another Happ a serious look.
The Phils have the 10th overall selection in the Draft, which will be held on Monday, June 8th. This marks the third consecutive season that the club will select among the top 20 choices.
In 2013, the club selected high school shortstop J.P. Crawford with the 16th overall pick. In 2014, it was righthanded pitcher Aaron Nola out of LSU with the 7th overall selection. Now those two are the top two prospects in the Phillies minor league system by every major evaluation resource.
Getting this draft choice right is vital to the organization’s continued rebuilding program. You only get to select among the top 10 picks in the draft process because your team performed pretty poorly in the previous season. 
While you can spend money to fill holes and improve your team, and the Phils will have plenty to spend in the coming years, a solid minor league system is a must for sustained excellence.

He’s got a nice presence to him in the clubhouse and in the dugout” ~ UC coach Ty Neal

By most accounts, this year’s Amateur Draft is going to be one of the more interesting in recent years. That is a by-product of three developments: there is no clear-cut top choice, a number of previously considered high choices have been injured, and there is an overall lack of talent depth available this time around.
As we move closer and closer to the date, not much is becoming clear. It would appear that there are going to be questions right up until close to Draft day itself, and players might end up reaching handshake agreements with teams prior, thus slotting themselves into position in at least a couple of cases.
Based on the way that most reputable draft resources feel that the top handful of players will go, and in evaluating what might be available to the Phillies at that #10 position, my choice for the selection would be University of Cincinnati oufielder Ian Happ.
Happ is a 6’0″, 205 pounder who will turn 21 years old in August. A switch-hitter, he is better from the left side, and projects to hit for both average and pop. 
He is almost certainly going to be a corner outfielder, so he is going to have to hit. That does not appear as if it will be an issue with this young man.
Happ is a Pittsburgh native, no relation to former Phils lefty J.A. Happ, and has enjoyed an award-winning collegiate career in Ohio. 
He was a Perfect Game Freshman All-American with the Bearcats in 2013, and Cape Cod League all-star in both 2013 and 2014.
He has spent his first three seasons on the Golden Spikes Award watch lists, and this year was a Baseball America and Perfect Game preseason 1st Team All-American. He is sure to add to his award case once this current season ends.
This year, Happ is rolling along with a .362/.491/.672 slash line. He has 13 homers, 39 rbi, and 11 stolen bases. 
Defensively, Happ has good speed and a strong arm that could play well on either corner in the pros. He did play 2nd base in 2013, but has not played it since then, and is likely going to be an outfielder at the next level.
He will also become the first-ever player from the University of Cincinnati selected in the 1st round.
UC coach Ty Neal had glowing words for him to Fox Sports: “He’s handling the success well and he’s leading these young guys, teaching them right and wrong along the way. He’s got a nice presence to him in the clubhouse and in the dugout….He’s holding guys accountable a little bit but also being a good teammate.
A strong hitter. An outfielder. A character guy in the clubhouse. These are exactly the types of traits that the Phillies need to reap from this selection. If it were my pick, he’d certainly be near the top of my board at that #10 spot.