Thanks to Aunt Pam, I’m starting to keep an eye on Ian Happ. I like what I see on film.
Watch carefully and you’ll notice that just before he goes into his stride at the plate, Ian extends his front foot a little bit as a timing mechanism, and does so symmetrically when hitting from either side of the plate, which is why scouts refer to him as a mirror image switch hitter.
Make no mistake about it – Ian is not yet drawing comparisons to this famous mirror image switch hitter of the ’50s and ’60s. Hmm … maybe just a little?
While any comparison of Happ to Mantle would be presumptuous and premature, he is projected to be a high draft pick out of college based on his bat. Although I’m perfectly content to wait a couple of years to see Ian in the Arizona Fall League, Aunt Pam clued me in to Ian’s progression through the Cape Cod Summer League.
I’ve described the Fall League as the first time that minor league players are playing against opposition each of whom has also been considered the best player on his team, in his neighborhood, etc. But it starts even earlier than the Fall League and, as the video says, as the Cape Cod League really represents the last bastion of boyhood dreams and love for the game before it becomes big business.
As shown in this documentary the Cape Cod League is a special experience, with players adopted by local families and occupying their summers with experiences that Norman Rockwell would have a field day in painting. It is a collegiate baseball rite of passage. Aside from the level of competition being the best these young men have played amongst at that stage of their young careers, it’s the first time they’ve competed with wooden bats instead of their collegiate aluminum bats. Aside from scouts aplenty aiming their radar guns at the mound, they’re intently eyeing how wooden bats make contact.
Though I’ve never been to “The Cape” for baseball or otherwise, this clip of the Phillies #1 draft pick last year, LSU pitcher Aaron Nola, will give you a feel for its backwood Americana. Nola, by the way, a 2012 alumnus of The Cape, was the 7th overall pick in the 2014 draft and fast-tracked his way straight to A ball in Clearwater bypassing the low A Lakewood Blue Claws.
The Philadelphia Phillies have the 10th pick of the first round in the 2015 amateur draft that begins on June 8. FanGraphs currently projects Ian as the 9th pick, but slots him anywhere between #5 and #20. I’ve never really paid much attention to the draft, as there are too many intervening variables before a player advances through the minor leagues. But if the Phillies do draft Happ, I’ll be paying closer attention on several levels. It would be great fun to see Ian in the Fall League within a couple of years, cheering him along with Aunt Pam – whether or not he’s drafted by the Phils. Good luck, Ian!