- Full name James Anthony Happ
- Born 10/19/1982 in Peru, IL
- Profile Ht.: 6'5" / Wt.: 205 / Bats: L / Throws: L
- School Northwestern
- Debut 06/30/2007
Drafted in the 3rd round (92nd overall) by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2004 (signed for $420,000).
View Draft ReportHapp is the most polished and projectable of the state's four college lefthanders. He followed up a strong summer in the Cape Cod League by chasing Northwestern's season and career strikeout records this spring. He led the Big 10 Conference with 96 strikeouts in 85 innings. Happ usually pitches at 84-88 mph with his fastball, peaking at 92, and at 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds he could pick up more velocity if he fills out. His arm works well, and his size and delivery give him deception that allows him to miss bats. His curveball is a plus pitch at times, while his changeup needs work.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Happ benefited as much as any Phillies farmhand when the organization relocated its Triple-A affiliate from Ottawa to more hospitable Lehigh Valley. He stayed healthy after missing part of 2007 with an elbow strain, led the International League by averaging 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings and made four crucial starts for Philadelphia. He netted his first big league victory with six shutout innings at Atlanta on Sept. 17. Happ's fastball sits at 88-91 mph and gets on top of hitters quickly. He has deception in his delivery and average movement on his heater, and he spotted it better than ever in 2008. His improved changeup is his second-best pitch, and he varies his slider from a true breaking ball to a little cutter that helps him get in on righthanders. Happ lacks a standout pitch and doesn't figure to get all those strikeouts on fastballs as easily in the majors as he did in Triple-A. He's generally a flyball pitcher, a liability in cozy Citizens Bank Park. Happ will compete for Philadelphia's No. 5 starter job in spring training, with the chance to earn a long-relief gig as a fallback. He projects as a fourth starter in the long term.
The Phillies thought Happ had a chance to make an impact in the big leagues last season, but elbow problems lingered throughout the year and his command was inconsistent throughout. His 5.02 ERA in Triple-A was more than double his previous career mark of 2.49. When Happ is healthy, hitters have a hard time getting looks at his low-90s fastball because of his natural deception. Happ's fastball has good life and finish through the zone with some armside run. His 82-85 mph changeup was his most improved offering in 2007, as he increased its depth and was able to locate it well against righthanders. Happ's slider remains too soft and loopy, and he really got into trouble when his stuff tended to flatten out late in games. He repeats his delivery well, but he needs to get stronger to maintain his delivery. Happ likely will return to Triple-A and could be a valuable spot starter if needed in Philadelphia this season. He projects as a No. 3 or 4 starter.
The first Northwestern player ever to make the all-Big 10 Conference team three times, Happ has had no trouble adjusting to pro ball. He has posted a 2.49 ERA and reached Triple-A in just two and a half seasons. The Phillies worked with Happ to get him more upright in his delivery, which created more deception and velocity (up to 93 mph in the Arizona Fall League) on his fastball. He has always demonstrated an ability to locate the pitch wherever he wants. Even with the boost to his fastball, Happ's changeup remains his best pitch, featuring excellent depth and fade. After missing time with quadriceps and oblique injuries in 2005, Happ proved durable and tossed a career-high 175 innings (including the AFL) in 2006. He's one of the better athletes in the system. Happ's slider is too soft at times, turning into a loopy slurve. He made strides with its consistency in 2006, but it will improve more as he uses it more. Though he locates his fastball exceptionally well, he can rely on to it too much. Happ is the next starter in line for a promotion to Philadelphia and projects as a No. 3 or 4 starter. The offseason acquisitions of Adam Eaton and Freddy Garcia will buy him a full year of development time at Triple-A.
The first Northwestern player to make the all-Big 10 Conference team three times, Happ is a classic lefthanded control pitcher. According to scouting director Marti Wolever, "Deception is his best pitch." That attribute makes Happ's upper-80s fastball play better than its raw grade of fringe average. Like Randy Wolf, he can elevate his fastball against righthanders and still get them to swing through it. Happ is a thinker with an excellent feel for pitching who knows when and where to throw his plus changeup. He must tighten his slider and throw it harder, as it devolves into a slurve too often. Throwing it more would help, but he prefers to go with his fastball because he always has had success with it. Pulled quadriceps and oblique muscles cost Happ innings in 2005. His polish and athleticism--he left St. Bede Academy (Peru, Ill.) as its all-time leading scorer in basketball--mean he should move quickly, as his dominant September start in Double-A foretold. He'll start 2006 in high Class A and eventually should become a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Happ is a good athlete--he's the all-time leading scorer for his high school basketball program-- who became the first Northwestern baseball player to be named first-team all-Big 10 Conference three times. He shows a great feel for pitching and a deceptive delivery. Hitters rarely get a good look at his offerings, and righthanders often swing late on his upper-80s fastball, which can touch 90. Happ can locate that pitch and his slider to either side of the plate, and features an average changeup. Those attributes helped Happ register better than a strikeout per inning during his college career, a trend that carried over to his pro debut. His polish should allow him to quickly reach his eventual future as a back-of-the-rotation starter, beginning this year in low Class A.
Minor League Top Prospects
No IL pitcher came further this season than Happ, who pitched through elbow soreness with Ottawa in 2007 and finished with the worst ERA (5.02) and the highest walk rate (4.7 per nine innings) among league qualifiers. Happ rebounded in 2008, improving his control while ranking first among Triple-A pitchers with 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings and second with 151 punchouts. He also earned a spot on the Phillies' postseason roster with a strong September. Despite the strikeouts, Happ doesn't have overpowering stuff. Instead, he relies on natural deception and commands a lively 87-91 mph fastball to both sides of the plate. He cuts and sinks his fastball, and gets it in on the hands of lefthanders well Happ uses his changeup, which features good depth, to combat righties. He also throws a curveball, but it lags behind his other two pitches.
Though he's 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, Happ engineered a strong pro debut more with location and deception than with sheer velocity. His fastball sat in the high 80s and topped out at 92 mph, though he projects to get stronger. Holmberg compared him to Vargas, noting that Happ is a little sneakier and a little more effortless. His mechanics are solid, so he should be able to cut down on his walk rate. His curveball can be a plus pitch and his changeup is coming along.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Control in the Philadelphia Phillies in 2007
- Rated Best Changeup in the Philadelphia Phillies in 2007