MLB Handicapping: Phillies Happ Exceeding Expectations
by Dave Busk - 7/30/2009
Is J.A. Happ pitching his way out of Philly ? Or has he pitched the Phillies out of a Roy Halladay deal ?
In spring training, the common theme was that the Phillies would maybe have to land a starter to bolster their chances to repeat as champs. What has happened within their system over the last five months just shows you how half a season can change your team.
Let's backtrack to last season when Happ was essentially deemed a lower-end prospect that was called in for a few spot starts and some relief duty. I say lower-end because rules dictate that teams immediately start the clock on arbitration and free agency eligibility the moment a prospect hits the bigs, so most teams are inclined to tab a low-level prospect for spot starts rather than set a high-end guy's path to more cash.
Happ pitched admirably in his outings, and started his climb through the Phils’ ladder of prospects. Still, he was deemed only a candidate for a fifth starter slot and/or long relief in the spring, with other prospects such as Kyle Kendrick and Carlos Carrasco leading as more of a likely choice to claim the job. Well, Happ pitched lights out, only surpassed by the pitching (and higher contract intangibility) of “Chopper” - Chan Ho Park. Happ was relegated to bullpen duty once the season started, but Chopper failed so badly, and Happ was sent to the rescue in most of his starts. Soon, the roles were reversed and Happ hasn't looked back.
His numbers are unreal over the last month. Although he had two so-so outings, he was actually a victim of some bloop hits in one, and settled down after a rocky start in the other. Now the Phillies don't want to part with him AND Drabek in the same deal. Drabek is a unique case on his own, just two years removed from surgery. This deal would have been laughed at by Toronto from the off-season up until the end of May, but Drape’s climb and subsequent success at higher minor levels, coupled with Happ's meteoric climb to the best of the rotation this year has made the Phillies re-think everything. Happ hasn't seen any team twice yet in his career, and to move to the brutal AL East would be tough on his career, so I'm sure he's hoping he's put himself off limits.
For more information on Dave Busk’s MLB picks, check his page here.
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