In addition to his burgeoning media empire, Ian Happ has emerged as one of the league’s most patient young hitters. Among 37 qualified hitters at or under 26 years old, Happ ranks third in outside-zone swing rate (21%) this season. His eye has been better than respected young stars Fernando Tatis Jr., Ronald Acuna Jr., Vlad Guerrero Jr., and several other players including Gleyber Torres, Cody Bellinger, Eloy Jimenez, and Luis Robert who weren’t named after their fathers.
Happ’s emergence as the everyday center fielder dramatically improved the Cubs’ short-term and could pay dividends down the road. Since Dexter Fowler departed to boring St. Louis, the Cubs have struggled to find consistency in center and at leadoff. Although Kris Bryant is currently the leadoff man and no one has suggested moving the MVP back to the middle of the order, Happ is showing the plate discipline and mentality to thrive at the top.
Granted, Joe Maddon‘s experiment with him there didn’t go so well, but this was before the Happ made success adjustments to his swing. While you might want to wait until the sample grows, these stats tend to stabilize around 100 pitches seen. Happ has seen 196 pitches this season, so we can reasonably assume his performance to this point is sustainable.
Even though changes can still occur, this is a trend to follow as the season continues.