Cincinnati Reds Should Consider Drafting University of Cincinnati Star

The Cincinnati Reds hopefully have been paying attention to a player in their own city when scouting potential players to draft on Monday. Outfielder Ian Happ has played just up the road at the University of Cincinnati for the past three years. As a junior in 2015, Happ had his best year at the collegiate level. He hit .369, with 73 hits, 18 doubles, 14 home runs, 44 RBI and 49 walks. His on-base percentage was an insane .492. He was named the AAC Player of the Year and was a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the best college player in the country.

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Happ is the best player to come from the University of Cincinnati baseball team since Josh Harrison, now an All-Star with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Happ hits for average, and has hit over .300 in all three seasons at UC, putting his career average at .338. He also played in the Cape Cod League during the summer of 2013 and 2014 and was a league all-star both years.

During my final semester of college at UC in 2013, I was able to write about the UC baseball team for the Bearcats official website. This meant I went to home games frequently. As the season wore on, I noticed one of the freshman, on a team loaded with freshmen, was particularly better than his peers. I could tell Happ was going to be a special player.

Happ’s a pure hitter, very similar to the Reds’ Joey Votto. He has a really good eye at the plate and won’t swing at pitches he knows are balls. In his career at UC, Happ is third on the all-time walks list with 128. The Reds need more players who are selective at the plate. The Reds also can benefit from drafting an outfield prospect, since potential major-league outfielders seem to be sparse in their minor league system.

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Happ’s demeanor is also very much like Votto’s. He quietly goes about his business, always looking to get better. As an example of this, let’s look at his sophomore year at UC in 2014. While it was not a bad season—he hit .322—he was down in every category from his freshman year. Happ hit five home runs with only 27 RBI and had only 32 walks. He did play in five less games, which played a slight factor. In 2015, however, he improved his power, his selectiveness at the plate and ended up having his best year collegiately.

The biggest question with Happ is what position he will play going forward. He played exclusively in the outfield this past season, but has played the infield, most notably at second base during his freshman year. The Reds could make him a corner outfielder or groom him to be the second baseman of the future. To be honest, I think he’ll end up being an outfielder, no matter what team drafts him. His power is not what a team would expect from a corner outfielder, but that shouldn’t matter too much if a team wants a solid, young hitter.

Maybe I’m biased because I’ve watched him play multiple times, but anyone who watches him can see that he has what it takes to make it to the major leagues. He’s a little older than someone drafted out of high school, but that means he’s got more experience with three years of college baseball under his belt, similar to when the Reds drafted Todd Frazier. While he’s not the power hitter they might want, he’s someone who knows how to hit and Reds fans know they need more true hitters in their minor league system.

Additional note: Happ is from Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. His mentor over the past couple of years has been former Red Sean Casey, also from Pittsburgh. Recently, Casey sat down to interview Happ on MLB Network. Here’s that video. It’s short, but quite interesting.

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