J.A. HAPP, LEFT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: October 19, 1982
Drafted: 3rd Round, 92nd Overall, 2004 (Phillies)
How Acquired: Trade (from Mariners for Adrian Sampson)
College: Northwestern University
Agent: Jay Fee Sports Group
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Happ is a classic finesse left-hander, throwing the standard mix of four pitches, all of them more or less average. His fastball averaged a little below 90 mph through 2010, but his velocity gradually increased to around 92 in 2014-15. When he’s pitching well, he throws strikes, but he’s had seasons when he walked too many hitters. He’s not a groundball pitcher and has been vulnerable to gopher balls at times. He’s had only a slight platoon split over his major league career.
Happ had a good debut in short season ball, although his control could have been better. Baseball America rated him the Phillies’ 16th best prospect after the season; in fact, he rated between 8th and 19th every year through 2008.
Quad and oblique injuries cost Happ time in low A, but he was very effective when he pitched, including much improved control.
Happ had a strong season, divided between the Florida State League and the Eastern League. His numbers at the former can be discounted a little because it’s an extreme pitching league, but he put up very similar numbers in the Eastern League, which is roughly neutral.
Happ had a tougher time of it in AAA, largely due to elbow problems. The main issue with his pitching was walks. The Phillies called him up in June for a spot start that didn’t go well.
Happ rebounded in AAA, with an especially high K rate. The Phillies called him up briefly in July and August, then he made five appearances, including two strong starts, in September during a pennant race.
Happ made the Phillies’ opening day roster, pitching in relief initially. He joined the rotation in late May and stayed there, except for missing ten days in September with an oblique injury. He had what so far has been his best season, finishing second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. The advanced metrics weren’t as favorable; Happ had an xFIP of 4.43. He benefited from a somewhat low BABIP of .266 and a high strand rate of 85%.
Happ missed two and a half months, starting in late April, with a forearm strain. It took him a while to work his way back to the majors on rehab, but after making one more start for the Phillies he was included in a deadline trade with Houston. He finished out the season in the Houston rotation, not quite bouncing back to his previous form due to control issues.
Happ had a rough season with the Astros, even getting optioned to AAA for half of August. He had trouble throwing strikes and keeping the ball in the park, allowing a HR every seven innings.
Happ continued to struggle with Houston, this time largely due to a 1.5 HR/9. Near the trade deadline, the Astros sent him to Toronto in a ten-player trade that amounted to very little on either end. Happ made six starts and four relief appearances with Toronto, with a similar ERA but much better peripherals, including just two HRs. He missed the season’s last three weeks with a fractured foot.
Happ missed roughly half the season after taking a line drive to the head in early May. He made his way back to the majors in early August and pitched well in September, with a 2.97 ERA.
Happ missed some time early in the season with a back strain. He ultimately made 26 starts for the Jays and was more effective than he’d been since 2010.
Toronto traded Happ to Seattle after the 2014 season and he joined the Mariners’ rotation. The results he got were mediocre, although he probably pitched a little better than his ERA. He was hurt by a somewhat high .319 BABIP; his xFIP was 4.02. Seattle traded Happ to the Pirates at the trade deadline for Adrian Sampson, as the Pirates developed a last-second need for a starter due to an injury to A.J. Burnett. Happ turned out to be a godsend for the Pirates. After struggling in his first start, he pitched brilliantly. The Pirates made a minor tweak in his delivery and greatly increased his fastball usage, from 63% to nearly 73%, at the expense of his curve and change. Possibly as a result, he threw more strikes. His opponents’ average went from .279 with Seattle to .220, and not due to a BABIP fluke; his BABIP of .299 with the Pirates was slightly above his career average. He also saw a drastic increase in his K rate. On the season as a whole, Happ had only a minor platoon split. He was not a groundball pitcher with either team, as his groundball rate was 42.1% with Seattle and 40.4% with the Pirates.
Whether the Pirates specifically targeted Happ or whether he simply was somebody who was available when they suddenly needed a starter with only a few hours to go before the deadline probably won’t ever be known. Happ’s stunning performance with the Pirates will, however, further enhance the growing legend of Pirates’ pitching coach Ray Searage. As a free agent after the season, Happ improved his stock suddenly and dramatically. The Pirates will undoubtedly be interested in retaining him, but whether they have a reasonable chance of doing so remains to be seen.
|Signing Bonus: $420,000
MiLB Debut: 2004
MLB Debut: 6/30/2007
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2015
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 6/29/2007
Options Remaining: 0
MLB Service Time: 6.047
|June 7, 2004: Drafted in the 3rd round, 92nd overall, by the Philadelphia Phillies; signed on June 16.
June 29, 2007: Contract purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies.
July 29, 2010: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies with Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar to the Houston Astros for Roy Oswalt and cash.
August 16, 2012: Traded by the Houston Astros with Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter to the Toronto Blue Jays for Francisco Cordero, Asher Wojciechowski, Joe Musgrove, Ben Francisco, Carlos Perez, David Rollins and Kevin Comer.
December 3, 2014: Traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Saunders.
July 31, 2015: Traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Adrian Sampson.