Prospect Report 5.18.17
May 18, 2017 | Justin Klein
Ian Happ was called up on Saturday the 13th because the Cubs were dealing with so many injuries to their starting roster. In his first game he hit second in the vaunted Cubs lineup and went 1-3 with a HR, two RBI, one walk and one strikeout. Then on Sunday Ian went 2-4 with a double out of the second spot in the order again. After an off day on Monday Tuesday brought a move to the cleanup spot in the order and another HR. Happ also scored twice and knocked two in while striking out twice but also taking two more walks. Wednesday Ian hit cleanup once again and failed to notch a hit, but still managed to score after taking a walk. Today is Thursday and as I type this Happ is batting cleanup and has gone 1-2 with another double. He just notched the double off of Blake Wood in the bottom of the fifth inning. While Chicago has the luxury to send Ian back down to the minors after Jason Heyward returns from injury (Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist already have) I’m not so sure that they will. When Happ was called up it was understood that it was a temporary move and that he would be sent back down in a week or so. Now, after Happ has notched five hits including four for extra bases (two doubles and two HR if you weren’t keeping track), he’s made a strong case to stay up and play. That’s assuming that the 21/9/25/2/.298 batting line with a .362 OBP, .615 SLG, .317 ISO, .410 wOBA and 148 wRC+ that he posted in just 26 games at Triple-A weren’t strong enough to earn him playing time at the big league level. It’s true that the Cubs have a ridiculous amount of depth and talent without Happ on the big league roster, but he already looks like the next impact player. It’s just a matter of if the Cubs are ready and able to give him a regular role with the big league club. This situation looks like it could play out similarly to the one in LA with Cody Bellinger. He came up to fill in for injured players and played so well that he more or less hit his way into the starting lineup. Next thing you know the player that blocked him the most went on the DL and he’s batting cleanup for the Dodgers every night. Happ could easily go back down tonight after the game, tomorrow or any day in the next week. There’s also the chance that he could stay up and bat in a prime spot in one of the best lineups in baseball. Currently available in 68% of Yahoo leagues I would race to the waiver wire and grab Happ wherever I could and worry about him getting sent down later. While it’s a risk for sure, it’s a bigger risk letting a potential star player go by and be added by someone else. If Ian stays up he could flash serious power with a little bit of speed and solid hit tool. And if here to show those skills off from the top or middle of the Cubs lineup for any sustained period of time he would be a major source of counting numbers. Go pick him up now if you can and see where the pieces fall later on.
Bradley Zimmer was another top prospect that debuted this week as he was called up by the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday the sixteenth. He promptly went 0-3 in his debut with three strikeouts. Then on Wednesday he went 2-4 with a double and a HR while scoring twice and batting two runs in as well. That’s about what you’re going to get with Zimmer. He has solid power and speed, but also a ton of swing and miss in his game. At Triple-A this season Zimmer managed a .294/.371/.532 triple slash with a .238 ISO, .394 wOBA and a 151 wRC+. Those are great numbers, but Zimmer also struck out in 29.9% of his at bats and had a BABIP of .405 supporting his average and on base percentage. To his credit that strikeout rate was a vast improvement on his 37.3% rate from Triple-A in 2016. Unfortunately his BB% also dropped from 14% to 9.7%. This leads me to believe that Bradley is going to strike out in roughly 30% of his at bats and possibly even more than that. All the while he will likely walk less than 10% of the time. This will put a hurt on his batting average and put a sizable dent in his on base percentage as well. Because of this ZiPS projects an AVG of .228, Steamer projects .231. and PECOTA projects .237. Fortunately ZiPS projects 24 HR+SB (10+14) and Steamer has him down for 19 (7+12). PECOTA only projects five (2+3), but they also only project 51 plate appearances. The power and speed combo are a rare one these days and they are going to carry Zimmer’s value in the fake game. Last season across two levels Bradley swiped 38 bags and this season he managed to steal nine in just 33 games. Meanwhile he had five HR this season and 15 across two levels in 2016. In his first game Zimmer hit ninth and then in his second game he hit eighth. Unless there’s an injury or Zimmer gets red hot with a quickness I don’t see him hitting higher than seventh in that batting order. There are simply too many talented hitters to hurdle. While that’s a bummer, it does aid Bradley’s chances at accumulating a good amount of RBI. Currently available in 78% of Yahoo leagues Zimmer should be picked up in most of the ones that are twelve teams and larger. Bradley should put up numbers that are similar to Keon Broxton. I wouldn’t go dropping anyone that’s established and or extremely valuable for Zimmer, but I would make the addition where it’s possible as long as the likely batting average drain isn’t too taxing. Three players that I would hold onto over Zimmer are Ender Inciarte, Manual Margot and Keon Broxton. They are similar and have been successful at the big league level. That said I’d be more willing to take a chance on Zimmer over those particular players in shallower leagues where upside and the unknown are more valuable and therefore slightly more important.
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