Ian Happ is 'eternally grateful' for belief of Theo Epstein, Cubs

Happ cherishes how the Cubs took a chance on him with the No. 9 pick in the 2015 draft.

(670 The Score) As a coveted college prospect entering the 2015 MLB amateur draft, Ian Happ recognized the range of where he could land in the first round.

Happ had worked out with the Cubs that summer and realized their interest with the ninth overall pick, but he also feared he could fall down the draft order if they selected someone else. The Cubs believed in Happ and made him their selection, which is something the 26-year-old Happ is still grateful for every day.

As Theo Epstein now departs as Cubs president of baseball operations, Happ shared why he feels indebted to that trust shown in the draft.

"For the Cubs to have that confidence to draft me maybe a little bit earlier than I was projected or maybe a little bit earlier than some other teams would've, just a really cool thing and something that definitely changed the trajectory of my career and my life," Happ said. "I'm eternally grateful and for the opportunity I've been given in Chicago, because I wouldn't trade it for the world."

It didn't take Happ long to recognize how Epstein balanced the analytical side of his job with an understanding of the human behind those numbers. That came to a head in spring 2019, when Epstein and the Cubs opted to send Happ to Triple-A Iowa to open the season with the hopes he could rework his swing.

"It's trial and error," Happ said. "You never know what exactly is going to work, how it's going to click, and if it's using time and experience or needing to make concrete changes to the way that you're physically moving."

Happ didn't agree with the decision but has been a better player since returning to the big leagues in August 2019, and he firmly entrenched himself as the team's starting center fielder. He hit .258 with 12 home runs, 28 RBIs and an .866 OPS in this past shortened season while reducing his strikeout rate from where it was when he struggled in his first two seasons in the majors.