JR 2B/OF Ian Happ (2015)
JR C Woody Wallace (2015)
JR 1B Devin Wenzel (2015)
JR 2B Forrest Perron (2015)
JR RHP Mitch Patishall (2015)
rJR RHP Bryan Chenoweth (2015)
SR RHP Ryan Atkinson (2015)
rSO LHP Colton Cleary (2015)
SO RHP Andrew Zellner (2016)
SO INF Connor McVey (2016)
A switch-hitting Michael Brantley with the chance to stick in the dirt. That’s one of the ways JR OF/2B Ian Happ was described to me recently. I like it. Happ is a really well-rounded player with no tool worse than average who is quick, strong, and athletic. He controls the strike zone well (career 79 BB/67 K), swipes bags at a high success rate (44 SB at 81% success), and has exposure to a variety of different positions on the diamond. That last point is a little bit of a spin job by me, but I think he’s a talented enough player to figure things out defensively at whatever spot his pro teams wishes to play him. That’s the biggest — only? — question surrounding Happ’s game. A guy with the upside to hit .280+ with strong on-base skills, pop to hit double-digit homers regularly (20ish as a ceiling?), and the speed to swipe 25+ bases every season through his prime strikes me as a very valuable offensive player at any position on the diamond. I’d trot him out at second base for as long as possible because I think he’s got the hands, instincts, and athleticism to stay up the middle. If that doesn’t work, my next stop for him would be center. Others think he could work at third, an outfield corner (why there and not center doesn’t make sense to me, but what do I know), or even shortstop if given enough reps. That kind of positional versatility (or uncertainty if you’re the negative sort) brings to mind a fairly obvious comp: Ben Zobrist. Zobrist’s unusual place in today’s game — players capable of playing well at so many different defensive spots are a rarity, plus he’s a really late-bloomer who has exceeded even the loftiest expectations scouts may have once had for him — make him a hard player to comp anybody to, but here we are. Feel free to stick with Brantley as a possible outcome if you find Zobrist objectionable.
I have used a Zobrist comp before, by the way. It was back in 2010 when I compared West Virginia 2B Jedd Gyorko to the Tampa Bay star. Not my best work. I’ve also used a Zobrist comp (kind of) in a personal email, which I’ll share a snippet of here because, well, why not…
Bottom is [Tommy] La Stella. Top is Ben Zobrist. Minor league numbers, of course. We’re just talking hitting here; Zobrist blows La Stella away in every other area of the game. I’m not crazy enough to predict La Stella has that same kind of offensive career — and, even if he does, his glove may submarine his value low enough that you’d never feel great about him as an everyday player — but I think he’ll be solid enough that the Braves wind up regretting this one.
Outside of Happ there isn’t much for scouts to key in on when they visit campus. That’s a bummer because I like when a star like Happ can bring scouts in and then a less-heralded player gets noticed along the way; you hear that old story a lot in recruiting circles where a star HS talent winds up having a relatively unknown teammate outpace everybody once scouts really key in on him. The good news is I’m far from the final word on this subject. One of the players listed — or even somebody off the board altogether at this point — could rise up and give scouts something to think about this spring. The best prospect I can currently offer is JR Mitch Patishall, an undersized righthander coming off a year of 6.71 ERA ball in 55 innings. Cincinnati: come for Ian Happ, stay for…more Ian Happ!
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[…] want to try; “switch-hitting Michael Brantley with the chance to stick in the dirt” was how one contact put it; also reminds me some of Ben Zobrist; 6-0, 200 […]