Cubs take versatile switch-hitter Happ at No. 9
Univ. of Cincinnati OF continues club trend of picking position players in 1st round
CHICAGO -- Ian Happ may not have hit as many home runs as recent picks Kris Bryant or Kyle Schwarber did in their final college seasons, but the Cincinnati outfielder did well enough to get the Cubs' attention.
On Monday, the Cubs selected Happ with the ninth pick overall in the 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Happ, 20, worked out at Wrigley Field last week, and the switch-hitter hit some balls into the bleacher seats from both sides during batting practice. Workers finishing up the bleachers had to look out.
"We were trying not to hit them in the head," Happ said Monday night.
"We definitely feel there's strength there, and he's a guy who can run into 15 home runs plus and hit for a high average," said Jason McLeod, senior vice president of scouting and player development. "We're big on guys who can control the strike zone and show that plate discipline.
"We really feel he was one of the top if not the best college hitter in this year's Draft," McLeod said. "We feel really confident in that."
The Cubs added another collegiate outfielder with their second-round pick (No. 47 overall) by selecting University of North Florida's Donnie Dewees, who was the Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year. He hit .422 and finished the season as the Division I leader in hits (106), runs (88), total bases (188) and slugging percentage (.749).
The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 11:30 a.m. CT, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 12 p.m. CT.
Happ batted .369 with 47 runs scored, 18 doubles, 14 home runs and 44 RBIs for Cincinnati this season. He led the American Athletic Conference (AAC) in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage and tied for the lead in walks. He also led the Bearcats in runs, hits, doubles, home runs and RBIs.
"It's been quite a ride," said Happ, who was ranked No. 20 by MLB.com among the Top 200 Draft prospects. "It's been a lot of hard work. I really enjoyed my time at Cincinnati. It's been an unbelievable three years. I couldn't ask for a better opportunity."
He played baseball at Mt. Lebanon High School in Pittsburgh, and batted .449 with 12 home runs and 65 RBIs. Happ appeared to benefit the most from two seasons playing in the Cape Cod League, which he did after his freshman and sophomore years at Cincinnati.
"For me, the Cape Cod League was an unbelievable experience," Happ said. "I got to face best pitching in the country day in and day out."
He also has made the most of a four-year relationship with former big leaguer Sean Casey, whom Happ met at Mt. Lebanon one day. Casey has advised Happ on the mental side of the game, and they've talked about how to have quality at-bats.
In college, Happ played second, short and the corner outfield spots. Where does he feel most comfortable?
"I don't think I have one position that's my best right now," he said. "I'm comfortable in the outfield, I'm comfortable at second base. I'm excited to play wherever the Cubs want me to play and can't wait to see where they want me."
Said McLeod: "We're not going to put any limitations now on where he will play."
Happ learned the game from his father, Keith, and his older brother, Chris, who played at Duquesne from 2006-10.
It's the fifth straight year the Cubs have selected a position player in the first round, and third in a row under McLeod and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein in which they've picked a collegiate player. In the four previous Drafts, the Cubs have taken shortstop Javier Baez, outfielder Albert Almora, Bryant and Schwarber.
Happ was recommended by area scout Daniel Carte.